Israel Adesanya vs. Marvin Vettori: A Head-to-Toe Breakdown
UFC 263 goes down this Saturday inside the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona, and the card is topped by a dynamite middleweight title fight between champion Israel Adesanya and challenger Marvin Vettori.
This will mark the second time the pair of world-class middleweights have collided under the UFC banner. They first met back in 2018—coincidentally, in the exact same arena—in Adesanya's second bout in the Octagon and Vettori's fifth. Adesanya won that fight by split decision, though Vettori did not agree with that result.
Heading into UFC 263, both Adesanya and Vettori are far better versions of the fighters they were when they first met. While Adesanya lost his last fight, a decision setback at the hands of reigning light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz, he's looked almost unbeatable otherwise, rattling off wins over the likes of Paulo Costa, Yoel Romero, Robert Whittaker, Kelvin Gastelum, Anderson Silva, Derek Brunson and Vettori since joining the UFC.
Vettori, on the other hand, has not tasted defeat since his decision loss to Adesanya in 2018, picking up a quintet of wins over Cezar Ferreira, Andrew Sanchez, Karl Roberson, Jack Hermansson and Kevin Holland—the latter two being particularly impressive.
Who comes out on top when these two middleweight talents meet for the second time in the UFC 263 main event? As always, there's no way to know for sure until fight night, but a closer look at their respective games does provide some interesting insights.
Keep scrolling to see how Adesanya and Vettori match up on paper ahead of their anticipated rematch.
Marvin Vettori is a solid striker, which is no surprise given the work he's put in with celebrated muay thai coach Rafael Cordeiro at Kings MMA in Huntington Beach, California. That being said, there are few people who can match Adesanya in this facet of the MMA arsenal.
Before Adesanya signed with the UFC—and before he'd even begun competing in MMA—he was making his living as a professional kickboxer, notably contending for the Glory middleweight title and collecting victories against significantly larger opponents in the heavyweight division.
He has parlayed that kickboxing background into some impressive stats in the cage.
Adesanya has won all but five of his 20 MMA wins by knockout, and since joining the UFC, he has developed a commendable 49 percent striking accuracy rate. While he does have a habit of hanging back and waiting to counter—as evidenced by the 3.95 significant strikes he throws per minute—he's a definite sharpshooter.
When he's in the zone, there are few who can hang with him on the feet.
Just as the striking advantage clearly has to go to Adesanya, the wrestling edge undoubtedly goes to Vettori.
While the Italian challenger doesn't have a collegiate wrestling background like many of his division's top grapplers, he's become quite effective in this part of the game.
Since joining the UFC, he's developed a solid 53 percent takedown accuracy rate, completing an average of 2.22 takedowns per 15-minute fight. He's also flaunted some solid defensive wrestling, with a solid 78 percent success rate when it comes to stopping shots.
Granted, Adesanya actually has a better takedown defense rate at 82 percent, but as we saw in his recent loss to Blachowicz, during which he was taken down three times and controlled for north of seven minutes, he's definitely not the most difficult fighter to drag to the canvas.
In his recent win over Kevin Holland, Vettori completed a ridiculous 11 takedowns and amassed just over 20 minutes of control time. It's hard to imagine him having that kind of success against the champ, but the takedowns should come if he's persistent.
For all we know, Israel Adesanya, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt, has a solid submission game—but we sure haven't seen much of it so far. Since joining the UFC, he's attempted a paltry 0.3 submissions per 15-minute fight, and that rate that won't do much to change the fact that he's never won a fight by submission in his whole career.
Vettori, on the other hand, has shown legitimate proficiency in this department. He's picked up a significant nine of his 17 professional victories by way of submission—including notable wins over Karl Roberson and Italian veteran Giorgio Pietrini (twice). He also attempts just shy of one submission per fight, which is evidence of some solid killer instinct on the mat.
Needless to say, as is often the case, the fighter with the edge in the wrestling department also has the edge in terms of submissions.
Adesanya: Defensive Grappling
Adesanya has flaunted some solid defensive grappling against some solid grapplers. For context, in the combined 63 minutes and 24 seconds he spent in the cage with Yoel Romero, Robert Whittaker, Kelvin Gastelum and Derek Brunson—probably the best grapplers he's fought—he surrendered to just one takedown and succumbed to only two minutes and 56 seconds of control time.
But then he ran into Jan Blachowicz. In that fight—his last appearance in the Octagon—he was taken down three times and controlled for more than seven minutes. That could simply be because he was fighting a larger, stronger man, but it was a definite cause for concern. If for whatever reason, his defensive grappling is less sturdy than we previously believed, he could be in some real trouble against Vettori.
Vettori: Keep Emotions in Check
How do we put this nicely? Let's try this: Vettori seems like an emotional young man.
The Italian star has been involved in numerous fight week shoving and yelling matches and has made no secret of his disdain for his rival, Adesanya.
That could be a problem.
If Vettori, who has never competed in a fight even fractionally as significant as this one, is even slightly overeager, he could start making mistakes. He could become overaggressive. He could telegraph his takedowns. He could take unnecessary risks.
You don't want to do any of those things when you're fighting a man as patient, poised and powerful as Adesanya.
Marvin Vettori has many paths to victory in this fight. It's particularly easy to imagine him winning it if the takedowns start materializing.
That being said, an Adesanya win still feels like the more likely outcome. His recent loss to Jan Blachowicz was definitely concerning, but it was hardly a blowout, and it's possible it was an isolated incident.
At UFC 263, look for the middleweight champ to get back on track by doing what he does best: stopping takedowns and beating the living daylights out of his opponents on the feet.
Prediction: Israel Adesanya by unanimous decision