LAS VEGAS -- They say art is subjective. Just ask Yoel Romero.
The 42-year-old Cuban slugger succeeded in disarming middleweight champion Israel Adesanya over five bizarre rounds on Saturday at UFC 248 in a fight that was heavily booed throughout by the T-Mobile Arena crowd for a lack of action. Romero (13-5) also landed the heavier blows.
From the perspective of the judges, however, he just didn't land enough as Adesanya survived and advanced via unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47 and 49-46) in his first title defense. CBS Sports scored the fight 48-47 for Romero.
Can't get enough UFC? Subscribe to our podcast State of Combat with Brian Campbell where we break down everything you need to know in the Octagon, including Instant Analysis of UFC 248 with Brandon Wise below.
"I wanted him to stand and trade with me but he was scared to fight," Romero said. "The people came here for a real fight and not for this. The people spent their money to see a real fight. That's why I come here because I know the people pay and walk around and pay pay-per-view for what? Nothing."
Although the threat of his explosive counter strikes unquestionably frustrated Adesanya and got him off his game, Romero fell too much in love with the masterpiece he felt he was painting. Adesanya (19-0) was busy enough with constant jabs and leg strikes (which caused multiple welts on Romero's lead leg) to steal the win through activity.
"It was a hard fight but I did what I had to do," Adesanya said. "Look at his leg. I f---ed his leg up. I took his best shot in the first round and that was the best shot he landed on me. I did what I had to do and I f---ed his leg up."
The loss continued a trend for Romero in his biggest fights as he fell to 1-4 in his last five. All four of his defeats featured disputed decisions, although this time he was able to actually make weight unlike his previous two title opportunities.
In what was his fourth (and likely final) shot at a piece of the 185-pound crown, Romero was showered with cheers during his post-fight interview.
"This is my victory -- here, here and here," Romero said, pointing to the crowd. "This is my victory."
The fight was bizarre from the start as Romero turtled up behind his high guard and refused to take the lead as Adesanya, also a counterpuncher, remained rightfully fearful. Romero compounded those fears in the opening round by landing a looping left hand that hurt Adesanya and caused him to wince and blink his left eye relentlessly. Romero, however, failed to follow up on the strike in any form.
"He plays the game flawless. He gets you into a flawed sense of security," Adesanya said. "My coaches said we need 25 minutes of sharpness and focus. I was hoping to punch him more but unfortunately Romero was someone who didn't want to dance. Trust me. I'm fresh, I can go another five rounds."
Not only did the crowd boo most of the fight, the Las Vegas faithful distracted themselves by using the flashlight on their cell phones to wave back and forth. The bizarre nature of the bout only continued into the second round as Romero appeared to win his second straight stanza despite attempting less than three total strikes in each one.
Adesanya finally stepped up his output in Rounds 3 and 4 by targeting the legs. Romero appeared to get the best of the striking in the final round with a series of hard left hands late, although Adesanya said he wasn't worried while waiting to hear from the judges.
"As long as the judges didn't listen to the crowd, I was fine," Adesanya said. "I touched him up. And still."
Before the decision was read, unbeaten contender Paulo Costa, who defeated Romero in 2019 but lost his title opportunity due to injury, jumped the barricade cage side and had to be held back by security after Romero began taunting him. UFC president Dana White said this week that Costa will 100% get the next chance at Adesanya's title.
"I've had over 100 fights in my lifetime and [Costa] is going to come forward and actually f--- with me," Adesanya said. "I'm going to f--- this motherf---er up. I promise that. I see you soon, boi."
UFC president Dana White thought the fight was terrible and placed the blame on Romero for not pressing the action in likely his final opportunity to win a title. He also said he thinks Adesanya vs. Costa will be bonkers.
"I believe Israel Adesanya fights to the level of his opponent," White said. "The Anderson Silva fight was similar to that. Then you think about the (Kelvin) Gastelum fight. It was a war. Gastelum goes after him and tries to take his head off. (Robert) Whittaker is going after him trying to take his head off. That fight was great. You better believe Paulo Costa is going to go after him. That fight should be ridiculous."
CBS Sports was with you all evening bringing you results and analysis from UFC 248 in Las Vegas.
UFC 248 card and results
Israel Adesanya (c) def. Yoel Romero via unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 49-46)
via split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47)
via second-round KO (punch)
Neil Magny def. Li Jingliang via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Alex Oliveira def. Max Griffin via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
via first-round TKO (punches)
Mark Madsen def. Austin Hubbard via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Rodolfo Vieira def. Saparbek Safarov via first-round submission (arm triangle)
Gerald Meerschaert def. Deron Winn via third-round submission (rear naked choke)