This weekend at UFC on FOX 29, Israel Adesanya and Marvin Vettori have a chance to steal the show as both fighters fight to improve their stock in the middleweight division. A classic striker vs. grappler match-up reanimates itself as Adesanya attempts to topple a resilient Vettori.
The Last Stylebender returns
“The Last Stylebender” made sure to turn heads as his UFC debut went according to plan back in February. Now, Adesanya is ready to capitalize on the momentum against “The Italian Dream”. His goal in Glendale, Arizona, will be to turn that dream into a nightmare as Vettori enters a completely different world of stand-up.
When it comes to Adesanya’s kickboxing acumen, it makes sense as to why he gets peeved at other fighter comparisons in pre-fight scrums. His 80+ fights in the world of kickboxing speak volumes to the legacy he’s paved for himself. At 28, Adesanya is no novice in combat sports and his accomplishments in the field are separate from his contemporaries in MMA.
Quite frankly, there is no middleweight in the division that can hold a candle to his abilities standing up. Apart from Robert Whittaker and maybe Kelvin Gastelum, Adesanya lights up anyone in the 185lbs category. The slips, micro-feints, and quick mixing of strikes from crunching low kicks to laser accurate straights are the kind of nuances that make him a cut above the rest. Adesanya gives you three different looks by the time your brain can process the first one. If the game is striking, Adesanya wins the duel all day long, but Vettori’s strengths spell out an entirely different game plan.
Rekindling the flame
The Italian prospect Vettori has had a difficult run lately. Regardless, his toughness and grappling prowess will be key factors to exploit in this dangerous match-up. For all the holes in his game he may have shown against Omari Akhmedov, half of those issues came up because he believed in his striking to get him the win. In this fight against a kickboxing starlet, Vettori’s strongest tools on the feet will be minimized.
This caliber of opponent will force Vettori to focus on his more potent skills in the grappling department. Vettori enjoys a distinct size advantage over Adesanya and he will need to emphasize that as he looks to make this fight drag. This strategy works two-fold as Vettori can tire out his opponent while avoiding the amount of damage Adesanya can dish out.
Even with Vettori’s granite chin, there’s no point in testing his steel against a technical fighter that can tack on the points with each blow landed. The winning fight for Vettori will be on the ground if he can keep it there. If Vettori wants to be regarded as more than a prospect, now is the time to prove his stature against a seasoned specialist like Stylebender.
Blow for blow
Israel Adesanya has big plans for the Octagon as he looks to once again mark his territory with a solid finish. Vettori’s threat as a star refusing to fade will make the night difficult for Adesanya, but the real battle will be decided in the clinch. Adesanya has alluded many times that mastering MMA is a matter of mastering all the ‘elements’ that make your fighting flow to its fullest extent.
It’s hard to call Adesanya a prospect given the years of experience he brings with him from another combat sport. Even with his green approach to wrestling, the ability to fill in the blanks for Adesanya is at a higher level than Vettori, but that doesn’t mean he wins at every point. MMA is a game of chess, and Vettori will need to play all of his pieces to frustrate the rhythm of Adesanya. In a battle of will, which force will trump the other on their path to greatness?
English Student at Rollins College with a passion for all things combat sports. Mixed martial arts isn't just entertainment; it's an art form.