UFC 263 - Adesanya vs Vettori II - Analysis & Prediction - 6/12/21
Israel Adesanya vs Marvin Vettori
Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya (20-1-0) returns to middleweight to defend his belt. The fighter from Nigeria took a trip to the light heavyweight division to try and get into the double champ category last time out. The experiment didn’t prove fruitful as Jan Blachowicz spoiled that party, snapping Adesanya’s undefeated record in the process. At middleweight however, Adesanya has been dominant, clearing out the division's murderous top ten. He’s left the likes of Robert Whittaker, Paulo Costa, Yoel Romero, Kelvin Gastelum, Anderson Silva, and Derek Brunson in his wake during his middleweight ascent. The one minor speed bump along the way for the champ was a split decision in his sophomore UFC outing. That fight was to none other than the challenger, Marvin Vettori.
Marvin “The Italian Dream” Vettori (17-4-1) has cut through the middleweight ranks as well since that one and only UFC loss. He’s on a five fight winning streak for this one, with a noticeable step up in competition for his last two fights (Jack Hermansson and Kevin Holland) which saw the Italian dominate his opponents.
Adesanya will enjoy 6” of reach and 4” of height over the challenger.
How They Match Up
Well, as mentioned this is a rematch so we have a pretty good idea how they will match up. Adesanya is going to look to stay at range, pick Vettori apart using his huge reach, and then counter with heavy shots when Vettori over commits or enters the pocket. Vettori will attempt to bully his way inside and will most likely attempt to grapple. Champion and challenger have a few similarities going into this. Both fighters have incredible durability with neither being finished in their pro MMA careers, both have a good amount of 5 round fight experience, and both combatants have a similar UFC tenure (10 UFC fights each). That’s pretty much where the similarities end however.
If this stays on the feet then “Style Bender” will most likely win a comfortable decision. His length, creativity, and just overall better technique will carry him here. Things were close on the feet with Blachowicz but the light heavyweight champ employs a more tactical power punching approach. When Izzy goes up against fighters like that he opts to stay at range and pot shot his way to the win. The problem was Blachowicz checked the majority of low kicks, delivered powerful shots of his own, and then mixed in the wrestling to take over. Vettori is the opposite of this archetype. He typically presses forward and throws more volume, which is something Adesanya will counter all night. I do expect both fighters to land low kicks often, but Adesanya will land them more consistently (as he did in their first match up).
So clearly the route to victory for Vettori is if he can get the fight to the mat and keep it there. Adesanya has shown excellent takedown defense, especially when in clinch positions against the cage. He stifled Blachowicz’s attempts against the cage despite most likely giving up 20+ pounds to the light heavyweight. The times he was taken down was a result of well-timed double legs (against Jan) and chain wrestling scrambles (against Vettori). Blachowicz was able to hold him down permanently while doing damage. Vettori however struggled to keep Adesanya down for any length of time while inflicting damage.
So with superior striking technique, equal if not better gas tank, and strong enough take down defense, the champion should be able to retain his belt. Buttttttttt I’m taking Vettori. I know I know. The stats, the history, the analysis all point to Adesanya but sometimes...on rare occasions….the gut gets the say. I just have a feeling that Vettori is going to relentlessly grapple this time around. The pick is of course not entirely “gut” related. I’ve watched interviews where Marvin has said he is going to employ this strategy, he has executed this game plan before, and he DID manage to get Adesanya down in their first match a couple times. The other thing is even if he can’t get the fight to the ground every time, I can see him holding Adesanya against the cage and working tirelessly to get him down, racking up control time in the process. It could very well be a split decision again, but I’m going to side with “The Italian Dream” on this one.