UFC 248 Odds, Picks & Predictions: Best Bets for Israel Adesanya-Yoel Romero

Credit:

Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: Adesanya of Nigeria (left) and Yoel Romero of Cuba face off during the UFC 248 weigh-in.

  • Israel Adesanya (-280) and Yoel Romero are set to square off on Saturday night for UFC 248 in Las Vegas.
  • Romero is one of the oldest remaining fighters in UFC, but also one of the most athletic. Is there any chance he pulls the upset on Saturday?
  • See Sean Zerillo's full betting analysis below.

UFC 248 Betting Odds & Picks

  • Odds: Israel Adesanya (-280) vs. Yoel Romero
  • Time: Approx. 11:30 p.m. ET
  • Venue: T-Mobile Arena (Las Vegas, Nevada)
  • Channel: ESPN+ PPV

UFC 248 originally scheduled a middleweight title bout between two undefeated fighters — Israel Adesanya (18-0) and Paulo Costa (13-0) — but after an injury to Costa will now feature Adesanya against a dangerous 42-year-old challenger, and likely the best UFC fighter to never hold a belt in Yoel Romero.

Romero lost to Costa (via unanimous decision) in their bout last August and comes into this championship fight having lost three of his past four matches.

However, two of those losses were close decisions (one split) against former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker, and Yoel has scored a bevy of impressive finishes during his years in the Octagon – with lights out power from all of his limbs which gives the Cuban a chance in any fight.

Even into his forties, Romero remains one of the most athletic fighters ever to enter the octagon, and perhaps this is the night he will finally leave with his maiden title.

But Adesanya has extra-special qualities and looks to be a rare once-in-a-decade type of talent who unfortunately happens to co-exist in the same era as Jon Jones.

To the casual fan, the Nigerian’s meteoric rise has mainly gone overlooked – but what Adesanya has done inside of the octagon over the past two years (7-0; three by KO/TKO) is unprecedented – and dispatching a challenger of Romero’s quality would go a long way towards his becoming more of an established household name.

An exciting fight would certainly help exposure, and this could be a “Fight of the Year” candidate – with the two competitors having earned performance bonuses of some kind in 15 of their combined 19 (79%) UFC matchups.

But Adesanya is lined as a substantial favorite (-280, implied 73.7%), so how does this fight shape up from a betting perspective?

Tale of the Tape

Adesanya is four inches taller, owns a significant reach advantage, and is the younger man by more than 12 years.

Israel Adesanya’s Path to Victory

The measurables certainly favor the champion in this bout — he should be able to use his length to control the distance and force Romero to rush in, off-balance, to land big shots.

Adesanya’s strike-avoidance is often excellent, and coupled with his ability to fire off deadly counters from strange angles and quickly close distance, he has an edge if this fight turns into a kickboxing match.

He should also have an edge in the later rounds, expending less energy while repeatedly forcing Romero to step into the pocket, and while he will need to get through some extended flurries from the challenger, Adesanya has the superior fight IQ and should be able to maintain his level over five rounds.

Romero is known to take rounds off after expending too much energy, and Adesanya will need to capitalize on those opportunities, ramp up his own pressure, and force the challenger to empty his gas tank while he’s retreating and trying to refill it.

While Romero has dangerous power, the champion owns the edge across all striking metrics, and he’s a much more technical and diverse striker than anyone Romero has previously faced.

Unpredictability is an advantage in and of itself. While Romero likely hunts for a knockout shot for five rounds, Adesanya will be looking for a massive counter from any angle to end it.

When the counter-striker is more technical than the aggressor, it’s hard to pick against them.

Yoel Romero’s Path to Victory

The challenger is a world-class wrestler, but he hasn’t shown much interest in centering his game plan around that elite-level grappling in the UFC – averaging fewer than two takedowns per fight.

Instead, Romero has endeared himself to fans by turning into a killer on the loose, stalking his opponents with explosive strikes that can turn the tables on any fight in an instant.

That game plan tends to play out better in three-round bouts, but in a five-round championship fight, he needs to conserve more of his energy or risk gassing out too early.

Few fighters in the world can put you in immediate danger like Romero – and it wouldn’t shock me if he’s able to put Adesanya down with a big shot.

Additionally, Romero also hasn’t been stopped in the UFC and was last knocked out in 2011, so there’s a reasonable chance that he should have a full 25 minutes to land his knockout blow.

But Romero was the last fighter to weigh-in on Friday, and he has had difficulty cutting to Middleweight in the past – typically leaving him with less stamina than his opponents.

His path to victory and his first UFC title is through his superior grappling, by staying inside of Adesany’s range and forcing the champion into an unfamiliar fight.

Adesanya has never defended more than three takedown attempts against him in any fight – and his takedown defense has been sublime – but he also hasn’t faced a grappler in the same class as Romero.

If the challenger modifies his game plan from his previous bouts, he has a solid chance of winning — but Romero is headstrong in his desire to score highlight-reel victories, and seems intent on both living and dying by that sword.

Current and Past Odds

The betting line has moved away from Yoel Romero in three straight matchups, and towards Adesanya in five of his past six matchups.

Furthermore, the champion was initially bet up from -140 to -170 against Paulo Costa. Then he opened as a -180 favorite against Romero – but sharps have yet to buy back on the underdog in this championship bout.

Perhaps even more telling is that Adesanya is listed as an even money (+100) underdog in a hypothetical matchup against Jon Jones, should the middleweight decide to move up to light heavyweight.

The market movement for this bout is currently responding to unilateral action on Adesanya, and I’m curious to see what number (if any) sharps would need to see (+400?) to play back on Romero.

Fight Prediction

Romero has earned “Fight of the Night” five times in his UFC career and won another performance bonus on four other occasions – giving him nine bonuses in 12 UFC matchups.

Adesanya has won a performance bonus in six of his seven UFC bouts – including a “Fight of the Year” honor for his war against Kevin Gastelum in their interim Middleweight title fight last April.

These are two of the flashiest strikers in MMA, and I’m expecting both fighters to go for broke at various points to land significant strikes and stop this fight early.

In his recent bouts, Romero has repeatedly pressed the issue – all but abandoning his excellent wrestling by stepping into range and letting his hands fly.

But Adesanya is even more technical and unpredictable on the feet than either Whittaker or Costa is, and that could serve to frustrate Romero’s ability to land while leaving him exposed to deadly counters.

Ultimately, I think Romero expends all of his energy in the first few rounds, before eventually gassing out and leaving himself vulnerable while rushing in.

Romero hasn’t been stopped since 2011, but Adesanya is the most talented fighter that he’s ever faced – and I think the anticipated game plan for both fighters increases the likelihood of a stoppage.

The Pick: Israel Adesanya via KO/TKO (+170)

[Bet now at BetMGM. NJ only.]

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