UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya appeared rattled when challenger Yeol Romero simply stood still with his hands covering his head for the first several minutes of their championship bout.
Adesanya eventually solved Romero, but only enough to win a narrow decision and retain the belt in a forgetful main event of UFC 248 on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena.
Much of the damage was done with leg kicks from the outside as Adesanya couldn’t close the distance.
“It was a hard fight, but I did what I had to do,” Adesanya said through loud boos. “The legs don’t lie. I tore them up.”
Adesanya said Romero’s patient and cautious game plan made it difficult to put on an exciting fight.
“It’s hard to dance with someone who doesn’t want to dance,” Adesanya said. “He just tries to lull you. It’s what I expected.”
Adesanya improved to 19-0 overall and 8-0 since signing with the UFC in 2018. Romero, a 42-year-old former Olympic silver medalist in wrestling, is 0-4 in title fights.
Main card results for Saturday’s pay-per-view event at T-Mobile Arena:
Israel Adesanya (19-0) vs. Yoel Romero (13-4), unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 49-46), to retain middleweight title.
Zhang Weili (21-1) def. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (15-4), split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47), to retain women’s strawweight title
Beneil Dariush (17-4-1) def. Drakkar Klose (10-2-1), lightweights, knockout, second round (1:00)
Neil Magny (22-8) def. Li Jingliang (16-6), welterweights, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Alex Oliveira (20-7-1, 2 no contests) def. Max Griffin (15-7), welterweights, split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)