Follow the action live as Kiwi UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya puts his title on the line against Yoel Romero at UFC 248 in Las Vegas. The main event will be around 6.30pm (NZ time).
By Christopher Reive
Stepping onto the scales for the UFC 248 ceremonial weigh-ins, Kiwi middleweight champion Israel Adesanya pulled a cigar out of his pocket and mimed lighting it up, before turning to face Yoel Romero and snapping it in half.
Whether or not the cigar was a Cuban, it was an indication of what Adesanya will look to do to his Cuban opponent in Las Vegas on Sunday afternoon (NZ time).
The event was a way to give the fans one last moment of anticipation before the fighters square off in the cage in Las Vegas. For most UFC events, the official weigh-ins are done before the ceremonial ones, after which the fighters go face to face one last time.
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At the face off, fighters can get their last bit of trash-talking out of their system before they have to back up their words; make their opponent feel their presence one last time. Some fighters will take an aggressive approach and run their mouths while others stand respectfully; some fighters will look their opponent in the eye, other will look anywhere but directly at their counterpart.
As Adesanya squared up to face Romero, he demanded the 42-year-old Cuban meet his eyes.
It led to an intense stare down between the two that only raised anticipation of the clash, in which Romero has everything to gain and nothing to lose, while Adesanya has everything to lose and very little to gain.
During the lead-in to the fight, Romero's recent record has been a much noted topic. The Olympic Games silver medalist wrestler has lost three of his past four fights, but gets a title shot as a challenger handpicked by Adesanya.
Because Romero has knockout power, a decorated career as a wrestler and is a fan favourite, Adesanya and his team identified him as the toughest test available in the middleweight division when consensus challenger Paulo Costa went down with injury.
It will be Romero's fourth chance to capture UFC gold but to do so he has to do something that no one else in the mixed martial arts world has been able to achieve – beat Adesanya. Adesanya heads into the bout with an 18-0 record, buoyed by a dominant knockout win over former champion Robert Whittaker in bout for the undisputed championship in October last year.
It was Adesanya's 14th career win by knockout, and while Romero has only been stopped once in his career – and never in the UFC – the defending champion was clear of his intentions.
"I'm going to do him," Adesanya said.
* The main card begins at 4pm on Sky Arena. Yes, the main card is pay-per-view, and will set you back $39.95 if you're a Sky subscriber and want to catch it. Once bought, Sky subscribers can then stream the fight live.
Tale of the tape
Adesanya ||| Romero
30 ||| 42
18-0 (14 KO/TKO) ||| 13-4 (11 KO/TKO)
203cm ||| 187cm
TAB: Adesanya $1.37 Romero $2.90