Making the Grade – UFC 248 Main Card Edition

Making the Grade
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 22: UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya participates in a press conference ahead of his UFC 248 title defense against Yoel Romero at Spark Arena on February 22, 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Making the grade is back, and this time we’re going to be taking a look at the highly anticipated UFC 248 main card. The card features the middleweight title match between Israel Adesanya and Yoel Romero. It’s a fight for the ages and should be absolutely violent and fun.

In the co-feature fight, the women’s strawweight title is on the line. Champion Weili Zhang will defend against former champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk. Weili defeated former champion Jessica Andrade in under a minute and defends her title for the first time Saturday night.  This has all the makings for an exciting fight.

Alex Oliveira vs. Max Griffin

The pay-per-view kicks off with a fun scrap between two established welterweight competitors. Alex Oliveira is struggling, having lost three consecutive fights. Max Griffin has lost three of his last four; it’s safe to say neither man is anywhere near on a roll. This is a fight that is a must-win for both guys. Oliveira is a dangerous striker and has great submissions as well. His back is firmly against the wall, and there are not a ton of established guys who stay on the roster after dropping four in a row.

Max Griffin is a talented fighter who simply has not been able to get it going in the UFC. Since coming to the promotion he holds a less than stellar 3-5 record. A loss here could see him on the outside of the UFC looking in. That said, he possesses fast, accurate, and heavy hands. He can get anyone in the division out of there, he just needs to put it together.

I find myself once again talking about these fighters being on the main card despite not being ranked and having a combined record of 1-6 in their last seven outings. For that reason, this is somewhat puzzling to see kicking off the PPV. However, it’s going to be an action fight. You can almost be certain of the fact that these guys are going to bang it out. For that reason, it makes sense to kick off the show. I can dig it, and Alex Oliveira will win via submission. Don’t love the fight, but damn sure don’t hate it.

Grade: C+

Jingliang Li vs. Neil Magny 

Jingliang “The Leach” Li brings a three-fight winning streak into this fight with Neil Magny. He’s won two in a row via TKO and will be looking to make it three in a row. He will have a major reach disadvantage in this fight, so striking could be a problem for him.

Neil Magny has been pretty inconsistent during his UFC tenure. He’s 13-6 inside the Octagon but hasn’t been able to build a series of wins of late. He did run off an impressive seven consecutive wins but that was nearly five years ago. He was on the losing side of things in his last outing, as he was stopped by Santiago Ponzinibbio. 

Neil will have a substantial reach advantage here, but this fight really doesn’t seem to be of interest to many fans. It’s kind of a throwaway fight on a night that the UFC should be featuring their best. Neil Magny should win the fight, but either way, does it really have any actual UFC implications going forward? Neither fighter is ranked. I’m not a big fan of this fight. I’d rather see Sean O’Malley on the main card.

Grade: D

Beneil Dariush vs. Drakkar Klose

Beneil Dariush has won three fights in a row and sports an overall record of 17-4 heading into this fight. He’s a grappling master, and if he gets you to the mat, things can get really difficult, pretty quickly. He also has more than competition striking but will be at a disadvantage against Klose.

Speaking of Drakkar Klose he has also won three consecutive fights heading into this one. He won all three of those by unanimous decision. He’s a talented striker but if it hits the canvas, he could be in some trouble.

Neither of the fighters in this fight is ranked in the UFC top 15. For that reason, it’s a little odd to find on the main card. That said, it’s a classic striker versus grappler match and could very well be a lot of fun. Give the slight edge to Dariush as he has more ways to win, and I think he leaves the Octagon with his hand raised. All that said, the fight is not one I feel compelled to see.

Grade: C-

Weili Zhang vs. Joanna Jędrzejczyk

Since coming to the UFC Weili Zhang has looked tremendous. She won all four of her fights and has two first-round stoppages among her four victories. She destroyed former champion, Jessica Andrade, in her last outing, when she became the strawweight champion in just 42 seconds. She’s won twenty consecutive fights since dropping her debut back in 2013. She does everything very well, and can both strike and grapple at a high level. She’s a megastar in her home country of China, and with a victory, Saturday night could establish herself as a star here as well.

What can you say about Joanna Champion that hasn’t been said before? The former champion is a striking sensation and is as durable as anyone who has ever stepped into the cage. Despite being a former strawweight champion, she is in many ways, the face of the division. She’s lost two only two fighters in her career, former champion Rose Namajunas and current bantamweight champion Valentina Shevchenko. She beat the very talented Michelle Waterson in her last outing to earn this title shot.

From the standpoint of a compelling championship fight, I think this is it. You couldn’t put two better and more elite fighters in the cage than these two. Rose Namajunas is great, but she is scheduled to face Jessica Andrade at UFC 249. Zhang is the current betting favorite, but I think Jędrzejczyk will wear her down and take over via her striking advantage late in the fight. Let’s hear it Bruce, and new!

Grade: A

Israel Adesanya vs. Yoel Romero

Israel Adesanya has exploded onto the scene in the UFC since coming to the promotion and making his debut 2018. He’s run his UFC record to a perfect eight and zero and is the undisputed middleweight champion. There are some rumors going around about him currently having a staph infection, so that’s something to keep an eye on. His victory over Robert Whittaker looked too easy, and he’s looking unstoppable these days.

Yoel Romero is simply stated, the scariest man in MMA. He’s a genetic freak, who seemingly has beaten father time into submission and continues to look shredded and amazing at age 42. He looks like the boogeyman and fights like him too. He’s as scary an opponent as there could possibly be for Adesanya. The craziest aspect is that Israel Adesanya asked for Romero. Bananas.

This is going to be an interesting fight. It’s speed versus power. Can Israel stay on the outside and pick Yoel apart? Or will Yoel make this an ugly fight and rough The Last Stylebender up on the inside? When push comes to shove, expect Israel Adesanya to keep his distance and pick Yoel Romero apart, especially in the later rounds. When the final bell tolls, we’ll be hearing Bruce Buffer yell, And Still!

Grade: A

Overall Card Grade: C+ (Main and Co-Main are dynamite, the rest is so-so at best.)

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