Israel Adesanya returns to the Octagon this Saturday night at UFC 263 following his first-ever defeat as a mixed martial artist. Adesanya was convincingly defeated by light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz and now “Stylebender” will move back down to middleweight to defend his title.
It doesn’t get much easier for the champion, however, as he is set to face #3 contender Marvin Vettori in a rematch from 2018. Vettori pushed Adesanya to the limits on that night and ended up losing via split decision. To this day, however, Vettori believes he did enough to defeat Adesanya and he’s been calling for another shot at the champion ever since.
But how will the Adesanya vs. Vettori rematch go? It’s been three years since the pair fought at UFC on FOX 29 and both fighters have made significant improvements since then.
Our team at The Body Lock shared their Adesanya vs. Vettori 2 predictions and analysis in this detailed fight preview and picks video. Here’s what you need to know:
Israel Adesanya vs. Marvin Vettori 2 predictions
“Vettori has grown more than Adesanya. Adesanya has always had that crazy striking background and he’s refined it more for MMA. He’s become more technical which has made him a sniper and assassin just for knocking people at but as we saw in the Jan match, Jan did outstrike Adesanya. A lot of people have trouble looking at that and people to this day say Adesanya outstruck him, if you go back and count the strikes, Jan did outstrike him if you look at the stats.
“And the interesting thing about watching the Vettori vs. Adesanya matchup, the first one, is that Vettori landed some good shots on the feet. At one point he eats a couple of good shots from Adesanya, shakes them off, and then lands a big overhand left that gets Adesanya retreating. He went for six takedowns and only got two of them, but the third round is the real key there. That’s the round that he very clearly won and he finally got Adesanya down in the middle or at least away from the cage enough so that Adesanya could not get back up. We’ve seen that as recently with Jan and you can say it was weight and all of that stuff but honestly I don’t think it was weight that was keeping him on the ground in that matchup. He wasn’t really scrambling too much he was trying to keep himself safe but he didn’t make any clear attempts to get back up. That’s something Vettori is going to exploit.
“The Holland matchup was important for Vettori because Vettori seemed to get a little bit wobbled there but I wasn’t sure it was him being hurt or a combination of fatigue and him being hurt. He did attempt 17 takedowns and he made 11 of them — that’s insane. Those numbers are just bonkers. He got 11 takedowns and dominated Holland once he got him down. I think that Vettori is going to be smarter this time around because especially like the first Adesanya fight he stood and traded with Adesanya quite a bit and I think he’ll do that a little bit. But the way he fought Holland gives me confidence that Vettori will really use his striking only to set up takedowns and get Adesanya down. As you mentioned, Jan was bigger and Vettori is smaller than Jan but when Vettori got Izzy down in round three of that first fight, Izzy couldn’t get up, really. It was very hard for him to get up when he was down more so away from the fence.
“I’ve always wanted to see Adesanya against an actual wrestler. I don’t consider Brunson that was wild Brunson a wrestler with those lazy single-leg attempts that were just awful. Yoel Romero is an infuriating case that will drive me nuts because had that man — I think he went for three takedowns — focused on the wrestling I’m pretty sure he could have won that fight.
“As long as Vettori’s chin holds up, I think he wins this. I think his grappling game will be the answer because that’s Adesanya’s glaring weakness. Rob Wilkinson took Adesanya down three times — that’s important to remember. Tavares got him down, as well. That shows you a weakness and the Jan fight showed that he still hasn’t fixed that problem — if you get Izzy down he has nothing that he can do to get up. He can’t scramble effectively. If he has the fence he can utilize that with his longer body but if he’s out in the center of the Octagon he’s kind of just stuck there and that’s all Vettori has to do.
“Despite the fact that I think Adesanya will piece Vettori up on the feet mostly, I do think Vettori’s chin is still there and I think his defense and grappling are good enough that I’ll be the downfall of Adesanya. I think we’ll see a new champion. I’m not going to say it super confidently and say it’s 100 percent guaranteed but I’m confident enough in Vettori’s chin that I’m going to go Vettori. If his chin doesn’t hold up then it’s over. But if it holds the way it’s held — and he ate some shots from Holland and Adesanya — I think it’s just going to be a clinch game and a takedown game. I think as the fight goes on, Izzy will get more and more tired. It’s much, much harder to defend those takedowns and fight off your back.”
Auger picks Marvin Vettori to win
“It’s probably fair to say that he’s [Vettori] improved more. He wasn’t that impressive at that time, to me, he looked like a pretty average guy. Since then, though, he’s looked very, very good in all areas, and very underestimated in his grappling because people know him as this big aggressive Italian dude. So, maybe they think of him more as a striker, but when you actually look at his performances he’s very strong on the ground. He gets down just about everybody these days and was able to dominate Kevin Holland in that last fight — yeah, it was short notice — and then Jack Hermansson and that was an absolute banger all over the place where that fight went and he’s very tough and durable which is something that’ll be important against Adesanya.
“Yes, Adesanya has improved as well since their first fight but when you look at overall, yes, Adesanya did lose his last fight to Blachowicz — and even though it was light heavyweight, which is something that people aren’t considering for this fight, which is fair — we did see a very clear weakness exploited. Vettori even pointed out that even when Adesanya has been good at defending takedowns, it’s been against the cage. Blachowicz exploited that brilliantly, taking him down in the middle of the Octagon and he was pretty much stuck there after getting taken down.
“Blachowicz is bigger but Vettori, in terms of the grapplers at 185, he’s obviously up there now and I think he’s proven that at this point and he had success against Adesanya the first time. If we’re going off of them both improving since then, I don’t think there’s any reason to believe that he can’t do this again, especially after having been in there with him once already.
“So, they know each other a little bit which helps them a bit in both ways, in what to expect, but I think Vettori more so, and I think that this fight is one where he’s being overlooked and a little bit underestimated maybe because of the Whittaker should be getting the title fight thing.
“When it comes down to how it’ll kind of unfold, prediction-wise, as much as I want to give Vettori all this credit — and I think it’s deserved — it’s hard for me to still go against Adesanya since he beat him already the first time. I think he’ll know what to expect because I think Vettori is kind of putting it out there, he’s like ‘oh, I know that if I get him down in the middle of the cage then it’s good for me.’ Adesanya, I think, he’s obviously not a stupid guy so this should be a fight where he dictates the range and not let Vettori get in tight on him whether it’s in the clinch against the cage or blasting in those takedowns or whatever and getting those power shots in, so I think he’s going to be a bit bull and matador this one.
“It’s going to be most interesting how this fight plays out in the latter half with the two extra rounds … that third round was something to behold when looking at this matchup, but ultimately, I’m going to go with Adesanya by unanimous decision.
“I can see him getting a knockout or TKO later on but I believe in Vettori being able to close the distance and I think he is going to get him to the ground whether it’s against the cage or in the middle of it. He is going to have successful moments, but it’s going to be whether he can capitalize to the fullest effect, which I don’t know, he’s not much of a finisher. He does have finishes and more so by submission than we realize… but I think it’d be important to be real aggressive with submissions. I’ve gotta go with and still.”
Riggs picks Israel Adesanya to win by unanimous decision
Jake Nichols is The Body Lock's Editor in Chief. Previously, he was the MMA Editor at RealSport.