Every now and then, the UFC is blessed with a rematch that reserves itself. This Saturday at UFC 263, they got two of them.
After his big 2018 campaign in which he went 4-0 to start his UFC career, Israel Adesanya competed against a row of middleweight killers in his next five fights: Anderson Silva, Kelvin Gastelum, Robert Whittaker, Yoel Romero, and Paulo Costa. He then jumped to 205 where he fell short in an attempt to claim the light heavyweight title from Jan Blachowicz, but now he returns to the division where he has never lost and has a worthy contender waiting for him.
With Whittaker taking a well-deserved break, the next man in line had to step forward and it turns out he’s Marvin Vettori, a longtime foe of Adesanya who hasn’t lost since his first encounter with “The Last Stylebender.” Vettori dropped a split decision to Adesanya three years ago, but never looked away from the award when he put together a five-game winning streak to stay in the championship conversation. He now has the opportunity to make the most important statement in his life.
The flyweight championship fight in the co-main event has been in the works since Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno raised their hands at UFC 256 in December. Figueiredo and Moreno had already made history with the fastest turnaround for a UFC title fight after competing on the same card just three weeks prior, and then they screwed up and put together the best flyweight fight of all time. All that was lacking was a clear victor.
Israel Adesanya vs. Marvin Vettori
Not only do I like Israel Adesanya’s chances of beating Marvin Vettori again, I think this time he finds an end.
Don’t get me wrong, both fighters have improved since their first encounter, but I still don’t think Vettori’s abilities have caught up with Adesanya’s. Adesanya was clearly the best striker and his defense against takedowns from him has only gotten better since then. Even getting close enough for a proper takedown attempt will be difficult for Vettori. Note that Adesanya’s recent loss to Jan Blachowicz was only partly due to wrestling, Blachowicz was also hitting him on the feet.
So for Vettori to have a chance, he will have to show more in the standup. The fight gives you a chance for surprise, but it won’t be enough to win it. If anything, you could see him scoring an early takedown and possibly stealing the first round before Adesanya aims the lasers at Vettori and begins to separate him. Look for Adesanya to fight with even more fire after suffering the first loss of his career in MMA.
Good for Vettori for winning this rematch, but I don’t think he will make it past the second round.