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Grading the Card: UFC 248

UFC 248 is the most complete card the promotion has built so far (UFC 249 will likely top it next month) in 2020. Topped by an all action middleweight title fight and a highly intriguing strawweight championship co-main event, UFC 248 looks to be one, on paper, that will certainly deliver.

Prior to each card, fans are always inclined to critique at least some aspect of the card in some feasible way. Sometimes it’s something tangible, like an extremely shallow main card outside of a headliner. Sometimes it’s something trivial, like the bout order. Some of us can never be happy, and while some cards do deserve the criticism that comes their way, it’s always worth a look to see what makes a pay-per-view main card great, good, average, substandard, or just downright awful. So, as Unknown MMA’s unofficial liaison of opinions, it’s my duty to ensure that each card and each fight gets its appropriate grade. So those dreaded words, “time for report cards” that we all heard in elementary school return once more. Except these grades aren’t going to piss off your parents and prompt them to take away your Gamecube for the entire holiday break. Oh, wait that just happened to me? Well, nevertheless it’s time to give out another report card, this time for UFC 248 in this installment of “Grading the Card”.

Main Event: Israel Adesanya vs. Yoel Romero

A post shared by ufc (@ufc) on Mar 6, 2020 at 8:45am PST

On paper, this is just an insane fight. The world champion Adesanya has looked transcendent so far in his UFC career, pegging some to already wonder if he’s on the level that Anderson Silva was at during the height of his reign. While I’m not one to thrust him into that lofty altitude just yet, I’ll be the first to acknowledge that Adesanya does have the makings to be one of the most special fighters on the entire UFC roster. Yoel Romero, on the other hand, is a 42-year-old freak specimen that I am now convinced was an invention of extra terrestrials to see just how Adonis-like can one human can be. 42? 22? Ahh, it doesn’t matter. Yoel Romero is as good now as he’s ever been. So, why does this fight not get an A? Simply put, because despite how amazing it may end up being, it still wasn’t the right fight to make. Romero has lost two straight, both to top contenders ranked ahead of him. And while both Whittaker and Costa are injured, there are other options in Jared Cannonier* and Darren Till who would’ve made more sense from a merit standpoint. So, for that reason, this fight gets the highest grade it can…without it being an A.

*Cannonier is now injured, but was healthy at the time of the booking.

Grade: B+

Co-Main Event: Zhang Weili vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk

A post shared by ufc (@ufc) on Mar 6, 2020 at 4:59pm PST

Well, just in case you couldn’t tell from my irrational obsession of this fight over the course of this week, I’m pretty invested in this fight, as are many others. I would go as far as to say that from what I’ve analyzed over the course of fight week, this fight actually has more hype behind it than the actual main event. I’ve done numerous skill breakdowns of both ladies already, but to call this a striking delight is a vast understatement. Zhang, for my money, is a generational talent in the making, and Jedrzejczyk is one of the greatest women’ fighters ever and a potential future UFC Hall of Famer. The only real cut on this fight? Would Rose Namajunas made more sense as a challenger? Hard to say, and quite frankly, a foolish way of looking at things. Zhang keeps claiming that an astounding finish on her end is imminent, while Jedrzejczyk keeps claiming that this will be the greatest strawweight fight of all time. Either way, I’m all for it.

Grade: A+

Beneil Dariush vs. Drakkar Klose

A post shared by Drakkar Klose (@drakkar_klose) on Dec 21, 2019 at 1:47pm PST

Well, there was bound to be one that was a bit of a head scratcher, right? On UFC 248’s ridiculous main card, it’s this one. While this is an intriguing fight- a classic veteran contender vs. rising prospect matchup- it feels just a tad out of place spearheading us into the two massive title bouts. ESPN featured prelim? Now that would’ve been a nice fit. Either way, I’m splitting hairs about card placement. (But then again that’s what this series is about, isn’t it?) This is an interesting fight on paper, let’s just hope it proves us worthy of its lofty placement featuring in the middle of a UFC pay-per-view main card.

Grade: C+

Neil Magny vs. Li Jingliang

“There’s no way it can happen to me.” That’s what I said for years until USADA notified me of my provisional suspension due to an adverse finding.  That was almost four months ago.  I couldn’t understand how this could happen.  I have always been careful and have never, to this day, consumed a questionable substance that could put my career or reputation in question.  I have been a top 10 UFC fighter for a while, and I LOVE my job.  Regardless, this did happen to me, and when It did, it was confusing and it hurt.  The process—as laid out by USADA—was rather convoluted and unfair, I thought.  It’s difficult to hear that even though you thought you did everything right, you are strictly liable for the adverse findings.  Even to this day, I feel USADA does what they believe is right, but that doesn’t change the reality that I was guilty until proven innocent.  It's been roughly 4 months since I was notified by USADA of a potential violation.  They placed me on a provisional suspension as they conducted their investigation.  During this time, a team of people have forced USADA to review their policies, and I hope you (family, friends, fans and fighters) will see real, positive changes in the quality of USADA’s rules and by-laws.  Nonetheless, during these last few months I continued to fully cooperate with USADA and submit to their required regular testing.  Finally, I am pleased to announce that as of September 4, 2019, my provisional suspension has been lifted without further present penalties. I am truly grateful for all of the people involved in the process of getting this resolved. Thank you to my lawyer, Jared McLuskey, the UFC's Athlete Health/Performance team- Jeff Novitzky and Donna Marcolini, my team for keeping me focused, and my wife and family for being present and supportive.  They have helped me with every step along the way. Thank you to my friends and fans.  I truly appreciate each and every one of you.

A post shared by Neil Magny (@neil_magny170) on Sep 11, 2019 at 10:45am PDT

A post shared by Li Jingliang (@lijingliangmma) on Dec 16, 2019 at 4:40pm PST

The best way I could describe this one would be as a showcase fight for Li. Being positioned on the pay-per-view main card that also features China’s first UFC champion’s first title defense is very clearly no mistake. Nor should it be, as Li has proven himself worthy of a high profile opponent like Neil Magny. While Magny may not be in serious UFC contention ever again, he is always a very game opponent who is the perfect roadblock for a rising contender looking to firmly entrench himself within the top 15. My only complaint with this one? Well, honestly, I don’t really have one. This is in the perfect spot it could be for a pay-per-view. If it was the co-main event, ehh, then I may have had a problem with it’s placement, but as it stands, it’s in the perfect spot.

Grade: B

Alex Oliveira vs. Max Griffin

A post shared by Max Griffin (@maxpaingriffin) on Mar 6, 2020 at 6:50pm PST

Opening up the main card is an all action affair between two relatively inconsistent but exciting welterweights. Oliveira has lost his last three but has delivered Fight of the Night performances in two of those, against Gunnar Nelson and Mike Perry. Griffin lost his last bout against Alex Morono, and has lost three out of his last four. This could very well be a “loser leaves town” match, and given the high pressure, in-your-face style that both guys incorporate, this matchup has the ingredients to be a fun little pay-per-view opener.

Grade: B


This one is undoubtedly going to be the best one yet in terms of an overall average. We have a B+ (3.6), an A+ (4.0), a C+ (2.7), and two B’s (3.0 x2). On a quality points scale, the average score for UFC 248 is a 3.3, or a B average.

Honestly, a little surprising. I assumed it would be higher with the presence of the first ever A+ I’ve given in this series. Still, UFC 248 is an astounding card with two amazing title fights capping the bill. For hardcore fans, this is one of those cards that is a real can’t miss.■

Follow Johann on Twitter: @thejohanncastro Follow The Johann Castro MMA Podcast on Instagram: @thejohanncastrommapodcast

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