UFC Fight Night 171: Roberson vs. Vettori - Preview & Prediction

By Nick Cowie

A pair of fast-rising middleweights will kick off the main card in Jacksonville, Florida this Wednesday when Karl Roberson takes on Marvin Vettori in a three-round clash. Both fighters have won two in a row and the winner of this one could easily get a look at a top 15 opponent. On Wednesday, one of these fighters will make a huge move in a stacked 185-pound division.

Karl “Baby K” Roberson (9-2)

Karl Roberson comes into this fight off an impressive submission win over the formerly undefeated Russian, Roman Kopylov. Roberson was able to lock in a quick rear-naked choke on a hurt Kopylov to get the win in the third. Despite having more submission wins than knockouts on his record, Roberson should still be thought of primarily as a striker. As a Glory Kickboxing veteran, he is great at keeping his opponents at range with a jabbing front kick to the body and crushing leg kicks. This body kick causes fighters to lower their guard, providing an opening for Roberson’s powerful left hand over the top. For Roberson, the key to victory in this fight is keeping Vettori at distance and outpointing him in a technical kickboxing match.

On the ground, Roberson is still somewhat of a question mark. We saw him submit Darren Stewart as well as Kopylov during his time in the UFC but neither are particularly high-level grapplers. In the first of his two career losses, Roberson was blown through once the fight hit the ground and was submitted with an arm triangle by Cezar Ferreira. The head and arm choke got him again in his second loss. While Roberson’s fight with Glover Teixeira was at light heavyweight and on short notice, it is still concerning how easily he was swept by an injured opponent. Teixeira is a high-level blackbelt but after being nearly stopped with elbows, Teixeira effortlessly gained top position and sank in the choke. Despite what we have seen in the past, we have to assume that Roberson’s wrestling is improving constantly as he trains with Corey Anderson on a daily basis. Still, we can only bet what we have seen and Roberson backers should prefer this fight stay standing and at range.

Marvin “The Italian Dream” Vettori (14-4-1)

At 26 years old, Marvin Vettori already has seven UFC fights under his belt and is proving to be a consistent fighter and round winner. Vettori was one of the many victims of USADA due to a “tainted supplement” but he has looked better than ever since returning. Many people were introduced to Vettori through his split decision loss to Israel Adesanya. In the third round fight, Vettori was able to neutralize the dangerous kickboxing attack of the current champion with smothering wrestling. While the wrestling proved to be too little too late, it also showed that Vettori has the ability to find takedowns on elite strikers and adjust his game plan to win rounds. If Vettori comes in with a wrestling-heavy game plan against Karl Roberson, it is tough to see him losing rounds.

If the takedown does not come, Vettori will not be out of his depth on the feet. The Italian is a solid fundamental striker who can always be counted on for high volume. While Roberson may be the better technical striker, the work rate of Vettori gives him a real chance to bank rounds, even if they stay standing. Vettori also has excellent cardio and can keep up his frantic pace for all three rounds. We saw that in his most recent fight against Andrew Sanchez. The Italian’s movement looked just as nimble from the first round to the third. With excellent movement and a chin that has been tested but not cracked, Vettori is incredibly hard to win rounds off, much less put away with strikes.


Due to his versatility and multiple paths to victory, Marvin Vettori is the pick here. In a southpaw vs. southpaw matchup, the left body kick will not be as open for Roberson as it is against orthodox fighters. He will also have to worry about the takedown, making it harder to let his hands go. Roberson is a dangerous man and can end a fight at any moment, but I love betting on high-volume punchers and round winners. Vettori has both of those qualities as well as excellent cardio and defensive striking. Unless this turns into a kickboxing match at range, Marvin Vettori has the advantage just about everywhere.

I got Vettori early at -150 but I feel that there is still value up to about -175.

Pick: Marvin Vettori (-170)