Adesanya lands flush on Vettori in their first contest (Photo by Mark J. Rebilas / USA Today Sports)

In just a few short years, Israel Adesanya has ascended from top prospect to a household name and undisputed world champion. Adesanya has already faced “The Italian Dream” once before, winning a split decision over Vettori in 2018. Following his loss to Adesanya, Vettori rebounded with victories over Cezar Ferreira, Karl Roberson, Jack Hermansson, and Kevin Holland. Now, Vettori feels that he has the opportunity to right past wrongs on the biggest stage the sport can provide. The build-up to the fight has become both personally and emotionally charged, with both fighters seeking to put an emphatic end to their doubters’ claims. For fight fans and casual viewers alike, this main event promises to be nothing more than spectacular.

Following his failed effort to claim champ-champ status at Light Heavyweight at UFC 259, Adesanya is ready to remind the world who the king of middleweight truly is. His detractors point to Jan’s domination on the ground as a signal of Israel’s ‘one-dimensional’ game. Fortunately, “The Last Stylebender” is anything but one-dimensional. The Nigerian-born, New Zealand native has a combat sports record that stretches over 100 professional contests. The depth of his experience is simply unparalleled in the UFC. Despite his vast knowledge, Adesanya remains innovative and creative in the cage. Coupled with coach Eugene Bareman’s fighting genius, Adesanya’s ringcraft continues to develop to new, unseen heights.

Adesanya vs Vettori 1 Breakdown

Round 1

In their first contest, Vettori saw limited success in the first two rounds. Adesanya proved to be simply too evasive on the feet. His footwork and distance control allowed him to slide out of the way of Vettori’s attacks and avoid being pinned against the cage. Adesanya’s feints overloaded Vettori with information, leaving the Italian unsure of Israel’s next move. Vettori’s overreactions provided Adesanya with ample opportunities to counter with a dazzling array of strikes. Adesanya’s use of inside leg kicks proved to be a particularly effective weapon, limiting Vettori’s mobility and ability to close distance. While Vettori would offer jittery feints with his lead hand in return, Adesanya remained unfazed and continued to flow.

Round 2

In Round 2, Vettori was unable to leverage his physical and experiential advantages on the ground. Adesanya was able to defend his takedown attempt and shrug off the clinch, all while engaging in a measured striking battle. To Vettori’s credit, he did land several left hands which drew the attention of commentator Dominick Cruz. However, Vettori threw these strikes without any real connection to the ground, resulting in diminished power. Meanwhile, Adesanya’s feints and counters continued to be highly effective, although Vettori’s iron chin prevented him from being wobbled.

Round 3

Round 3 was Vettori’s lone dominant round, where “The Italian Dream” was able to take Adesanya down on multiple occasions. Adesanya showed a shallow ground game that former champion Michael Bisping likened to being a fish out of water. Despite Israel’s discomfort on the ground and lack of ability to attack off of his back in this round, Vettori was unable to do any real damage to Adesanya. Israel was able to get to his feet after both takedowns and resume outstriking Vettori. Notably, Vettori had more success in the striking realm in the third round when he was being more aggressive and fighting with an increased sense of urgency.

Ultimately, Adesanya won the decision based off superior octagon control, defense, and landed strikes in Rounds 1 and 2, while Vettori remains competitive with glimpses of success in Round 3. The significant strike statistics were 57 out of 123 attempts for Adesanya and 46 out of 127 attempts for Vettori.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – MARCH 06: (R-L) Jan Blachowicz of Poland controls Israel Adesanya of Nigeria on the ground in their UFC light heavyweight championship fight during the UFC 259 event at UFC APEX on March 06, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Conclusions from Adesanya vs Błachowicz

Despite being unsuccessful in his crusade to claim champ-champ status, Adesanya’s performance against Błachowicz offered much insight into his rematch with Vettori. Adesanya proved his chin and durability against a Light-Heavyweight knockout artist. This is no small feat considering the flush power shots that he ate without being wobbled. The threat of Jan’s one-shot KO power also limited Adesanya’s ability to get into his usual striking rhythm and deadly flow.

Adesanya’s feints were successful in eliciting reactions out of the Polish champion, something the commentators mentioned frequently. Unlike Vettori, Jan’s reactions were more measured which limited Adesanya’s ability to capitalize on the openings like he usually does. Israel’s inside leg kicks, which were super effective against Vettori, were constantly checked or evaded by Błachowicz. It will be hard for Vettori to mimic Jan’s success because he lacks the Muay Thai background that Błachowicz has. The lightning-quick reactions and lead leg dexterity that Jan has is not something Vettori can develop overnight.

Another large component of Jan’s success was his physical attributes, both his larger weight advantage over Adesanya and his long reach. Jan’s explosiveness and weight allowed him to bulldoze straight through Adesanya’s takedown defense and control him on the ground despite technical improvements from Adesanya. Israel’s 80” reach is a huge part of his ability to control distance at middleweight. Jan’s 78” wingspan allowed him to close distance in ways that Adesanya’s previous opponents could not. While Vettori is an extremely athletic middleweight, he won’t enjoy the same physical advantages over Adesanya. The additional muscle mass that Israel put on in his move up to 205lbs will further limit the physical disparity between the two.

Final Prediction

Marvin Vettori simply does not have the physical advantages to overcome “Stylebender” the way Błachowicz did. Despite a string of dominant performances, Vettori’s striking is a level below Adesanya’s. Aside from a fluke KO, Marvin has no probable path to victory on the feet. While Vettori enjoys the advantage on the ground, he may struggle against Adesanya’s improved takedown defense. This is no secret, and “Stylebender” will have devoted the majority of his camp to nullifying Vettori’s wrestling. Coach Eugene’s mix of crafty gameplans and sage corner advice will also provide Vettori a sizable strategic challenge as well. For Israel Adesanya, this is an opportunity to reaffirm that he is simply on another level at middleweight. And while it would be unwise to count Vettori out until the final bell, “The Italian Dream” will face the deadliest challenge of his career when the octagon door closes this Saturday night.

By Robert Almeida

I am a Georgetown University student studying International Security Studies with a passion for martial arts and combat sports. I am a member of the Georgetown Boxing Team and also train Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in my free time.

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