Israel Adesanya and Marvin Vettori are set to face each other again this weekend at UFC 263, but this time the UFC Middleweight Championship is on the line.
Adesanya will defend his title this Saturday, June 12, in the main event of UFC 263 on ESPN+. Vettori, the #3 ranked middleweight contender has earned his shot at the title after an impressive climb through the 185-pound rankings that most recently involved wins against Jack Hermansson and Kevin Holland.
Adesanya and Vettori first battled back in 2018 at UFC on FOX 29 in a fight that ended in a split decision. Adesanya was awarded the victory on the night with two scorecards in his favor (29-28, 29-28), but a lone 28-29 scorecard that favored Vettori has been the Italian Dream’s ticket to a rematch with Adesanya and a shot at the UFC Middleweight Championship.
This time, however, Vettori enters the cage after seeing how Adesanya can be beaten. The middleweight champion was defeated by Jan Blachowicz in March and many fans and experts, including former UFC champion Michael Bisping, believe that Blachowicz has ‘set the tone’ for how to beat Adesanya.
“It’s easier [to defend] because you can lean against the wall or the fence and if you get taken down, you can use that to stand back up. What we saw against Blachowicz was Blachowicz took him down in the middle of the Octagon. The reason that’s more beneficial is you got to be a better wrestler to penetrate and drive through and put them down. To take someone down in the middle is harder but you’ll have more success against Israel is because they haven’t got the fence to lean on — they’re just going to fall over. And then when you get him down, it’s actually way harder to get back to your feet if you’re in the middle of the Octagon because you’ve got nothing to lean on.”
Speaking with Submission Radio earlier this week, Blachowicz responded to Bisping’s comments and stated that it’s possible he showed the way that other fighters can defeat Adesanya. But, ultimately, as the light heavyweight champion indicates, it also comes down to the individual’s skills and abilities, as well.
“I think Michael said something and I agree with that,” Blachowicz said to Submission Radio.
“Maybe I showed the people how to beat him. We’ll see. He still is one of the best in the world, so we’ll see. Maybe I showed the way to beat him but every fighter is different and has different skills… I used my skills to beat him but we’ll see if Vettori has got the same gameplan, power, and same skills to defeat him. It’s going to be a really good fight, really nice to watch.”
The difficulty in assessing whether the game plan will be successful for Vettori at UFC 263 is that Blachowicz’s approach might not have been as successful if the two fighters were similarly sized. Blachowicz’s comments on the difference between weight classes and whether Vettor can replicate his success in the middleweight division.
“Every category is a bit different,” Blachowicz explained to Submission Radio.
“Timing is different, speed is different, so we’ll see. For me, it was better to take him down in the middle because he knows how to defend himself when he was close to the cage. He was slippery, he was fast, tricky, so I could not hold him on the ground, but in the middle of the octagon, yeah, that was not so hard.
“But I needed to work three rounds to do this. I needed to make him think that I would not take him down, focusing on stand-up skills, and just use good timing and take him down. I worked for this takedown for three rounds, so we’ll see if Vettori can do the same. But I believe that he can. But, also, I think Adesanya is focused right now on takedown defense and he might be much harder to take down, you know.”
As for Blachowicz’s Adesanya vs. Vettori 2 prediction, he feels that it’s a 50-50 fight but could end up favoring the champion.
“The first fight was really close, so it’s 50-50. But Israel is the champion in the category, so I think that he can defend the belt.”