How will Vettori attempt to upset middleweight king Adesanya?

Marvin Vettori branded Israel Adesanya ‘useless on the floor’ ahead of their UFC 263 headliner… the Italian will try to mirror Jan Blachowicz’s blueprint to beat the striking sensation

  • Israel Adesanya faces Marvin Vettori in the main event of UFC 263 on Saturday
  • Middleweight champion comes in as the heavy favourite to defend his title  
  • But air of invincibility is no longer there for Adesanya after his first defeat
  • Vettori could try to use Jan Blachowicz’s success as a blueprint for an upset

It seems foolish to doubt Israel Adesanya. His ascent to the middleweight throne and then ability to steam through all comers has been immense. 

But in a title fight, the case must be made for the hungry challenger who is desperate to seize what might be his only opportunity to become UFC champion. 

Despite the prevailing opinion that Adesanya will reign supreme, Vettori will have every confidence that he can prove the bookies wrong on Saturday night at UFC 263. 

Israel Adesanya tasted defeat for the first time in his loss to Jan Blachowicz (right) in March

Marvin Vettori will believe he can copy the wrestling blueprint shown by Blachowicz late on

Perhaps 10 months ago, the task ahead of the Italian would have seemed insurmountable.

Adesanya had just wiped the floor with Paulo Costa. He made the powerful Brazilian look amateurish and it seemed as though the Nigerian-born Kiwi was untouchable. 

His stand-up ability is among the very best MMA has ever seen. Derek Brunson, Anderson Silva, Kelvin Gastelum, Robert Whittaker and Yoel Romero all stood across from Adesanya while his hand was raised. 

But in March this year, the air of invincibility around the middleweight champion faded when he bit off more than he could chew.

He saw an opportunity for ‘champ champ’ status in moving up to light-heavyweight for a shot at Jan Blachowicz. 

There was still a perception that the Polish powerhouse was a paper champion, given that Jon Jones vacated the belt, but he has gone on to disprove that. 

Blachowicz was calculated over five rounds and was not picked apart by Adesanya in the way many predicted. 

He also underlined the victory with some dominant wrestling in the closing stages, a facet of the fight Vettori will have been watching closely. 

Clearly, Blachowicz carries a significant weight advantage over Vettori but Adesanya could do very little off his back. 

On Saturday, there’s little doubt that the challenger will try to take his man down. Vettori’s striking is fairly rudimentary and levels away from the wizardry of the champion.

It was a mixed start to life in the UFC for Vettori. He went 2-2-1 in his first five fights but as we’ve seen in the past year, something can click and transform a career. 

Blachowicz and new lightweight champion Charles Oliveira both overcame inconsistent starts to go on magnificent winning runs and end up with a belt. 

Vettori has won five straight. Four of those were decisions but he’s on a roll and talks a good game too. He believes the Blachowicz showed that Adesanya is not the talented phenom many suggest. 

Vettori was beaten by Adesanya in their first meeting back in 2018 on the scorecards

Adesanya is back down at middleweight in the division he’s dominated as champion

Vettori can take heart from the fact that Blachowicz beat Adesanya, albeit at light-heavyweight

He told MMA Fighting: ‘People pictured him like the Mayweather of MMA, and he’s not. He’s not. 

‘Jan was doing a great job defensively and then he was able to take him down again. People were picturing him like this phenom. He’s good, but he gets hit, and he misses a lot of shots, and he gets taken down. I can do all of that.

‘With Jan, the last time he got taken down, he kind of quit. He was just laying there. Adesanya, when it comes to the middle of the cage, when he’s taken down in the middle of the cage and he doesn’t have the cage, he’s pretty useless on the floor to be honest. Definitely when he’s down, he’s pretty useless to be honest.’

Adesanya’s coach Eugene Bareman played down the wrestling advantage, telling Submission Radio: ‘I mean, you’ve got to understand that Marvin has taken Israel down before, and Israel clearly won that fight where Marvin took him down.

‘Will Marvin be able to do the things that Jan did because we haven’t addressed them? Ask yourself that question.

Vettori managed to take Adesanya down in their first fight but only in the third round

The ‘Italian Dream’ is a betting underdog for Saturday’s main event in Arizona 

‘Is Marvin as good as Jan, the light heavyweight champion of the world? Ask yourself that question. It’s an interesting game of thought, because he’s from a very good team and a very good coach and some very good coaching staff and training partners. And we enjoy a good battle with those guys. So we’re prepared and we’re looking forward to it.’

Even though he lost their first fight by split decision, Vettori will take heart from the fact that he’s already been in the octagon for 15 minutes with the man he’s facing. 

That should give him some degree of comfort and while they have both improved since that meeting in 2018, he is familiar with Adesanya’s style.  

Vettori was visibly disappointed when the judges’ decision was read out in his opponent’s favour and you can tell he’s been itching for a rematch. That it is for the title only adds spice.  

The stats are surprisingly close. On average Vettori actually lands more significant strikes per minute 4.14 compared to 3.95. 

Adesanya and Vettori top the card at UFC 263 in what is shaping up to be a great night

But Adesanya’s defensive movement is more efficient, absorbing an average of 2.63 significant strikes per minute in contrast to the Italian’s 2.9. 

Vettori is successful with more than half of his takedown attempts (52 per cent) while Adesanya defends 82 per cent of them. Something has to give.     

The challenger, four years younger at 27, knows the scale of the task but will be buoyed by Blachowicz’s success and their competitive first fight. 

It will be fascinating to see whether that first sign of fallibility in March was a blip for Adesanya or a blueprint to beat the middleweight king.  

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