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Fighter on Fighter: Breaking down UFC Vegas 16’s Marvin Vettori

UFC Fight Night: Roberson v Vettori Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Short-notice replacement, Marvin Vettori, will challenge top control specialist, Jack Hermansson, this Saturday (Dec. 5, 2020) at UFC Vegas 16 inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.

In the roughly two-and-a-half years since Vettori went to a split-decision with Israel Adesanya, the Italian has repeatedly told anyone who will listen that he deserved the nod and is one of the best Middleweights on the planet. It’s been a bit annoying, sure, but one cannot deny Vettori’s results inside the Octagon, as he’s put together a strong trio of victories.

All the while, Vettori has been calling out every top-ranked and big name at 185-pounds. Though the opportunity comes due to COVID-19 as much as his recent wins, Vettori will nonetheless get a chance to prove he’s a contender.

Let’s take a closer look at his skill set:

Striking

Vettori began training at King’s MMA under Rafael Cordeiro in 2015, not long before his UFC debut. The Southpaw is a quality athlete with real strength and a deep gas tank given his high output style, and Cordeiro has helped fine tune those physical gifts into more dangerous striking.

There is nothing incredibly standout about Vettori’s kickboxing game. He doesn’t have true one-punch power or a devastating singular kick. However, Vettori does put together combinations better than most, particularly while pressing forward and closing the distance.

Vettori is quick to begin establishing the jab. At times, he can be too predictable in stepping forward with the jab each time, leaving himself somewhat open to counters. However, the jab soon pays dividends for the Italian, who is then able to start building combinations after a couple lands.

As one would expect, Vettori is looking to line up his cross. Vettori’s best combination is likely the double jab-cross, as Vettori does a nice job advancing past his opponents lead leg to a favorable angle without getting his weight ahead of himself, meaning he’s still able to deliver a solid cross. After the left hand, Vettori will commonly add on a slapping right hook.

Against Andrew Sanchez, Vettori’s ability to string together combinations was on full display, largely because his opponent relied on a high guard more than movement. Given a relatively stationary target, Vettori lead with the cross more often to close distance, doubling and tripling up on his right hook immediately afterward from a shorter range. With Sanchez still covering, Vettori would also look to slam home a left knee after the right hook raised the guard.

In his competitive bout with Israel Adesanya, Vettori’s ability to put together combinations and fight as a complete MMA fighter was important. Vettori couldn’t keep up with Adesanya in a pure striking battle, but he still mixed together kick and punch combinations, which makes it more difficult to slip punches (GIF). In addition, Vettori’s willingness to close distance into the clinch or shot helped muddy the waters further, taking away some of Adesanya’s precision.

Having a brick-like chin helped too.

Wrestling

The importance of physicality cannot be overstated in wrestling. Vettori may not have a scholastic wrestling background, but as a strong Middleweight with a long history of MMA training, he’s a very solid wrestler in the cage.

Typically, there are two ways Vettori will gain top position: catching kicks or grinding along the fence. The first is self-explanatory: Vettori will read a kick coming and trap the leg, allowing him to run through an off-balance opponent. Simple, but difficult to stop!

If Vettori is more actively pursuing the takedown, he likes to work along the fence. More specifically, Vettori likes to work from the upper body clinch, often starting on the single leg before moving up towards a body lock. If Vettori is unable to force his opponent down with just the body lock, he’ll look to hook a leg for the outside trip. The trip itself doesn’t usually end the takedown chain, but it convinces opponents to turn their backs and offer the back clinch.

From there, it’s pretty simple to drive an opponent down to the mat.

Of perhaps greater importance for this match up is Vettori’s takedown defense, which stands at an impressive 80% success rate. In fact, Vettori hasn’t been taken down since 2016, most recently shucking off the attempts of Andrew Sanchez and Cezar Ferreira largely on the strength of well ... his strength.

In that 2016 bout with Antonio Carlos Junior, Vettori generally did a good job of defending the takedown, even reversing one attempt to gain top position. However, “Shoeface” is a sticky grappling master, and he repeatedly forced exchanges until he was able to duck towards the back — similar to Vettori’s own style.

It was a case of a young prospect running into someone better at his own game, which is always a difficult match up.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

A jiu-jitsu brown belt with nine victories via tapout, Vettori hunts for the neck.

The guillotine is the Italian’s go-to move. Very often, he attacks the front choke as his opponent goes to stand up. Vettori is quick to posture up and deliver punches from top position, which does create space for his opponent to attempt a stand up. Often, the neck is somewhat exposed as the hands push off the floor/opponent.

In his UFC debut, Vettori scored an arm-across guillotine — the same somewhat uncommon variation his opponent is known for! From the front head lock position, Vettori isolated the head-and-arm and brought it across his body, using his hip to prevent Alberto Uda from pulling his arm out. From this position, Vettori can twist into the squeeze, cutting off one side of his foe’s neck with his arm and the other with the trapped shoulder.

Against Karl Roberson, Vettori demonstrated some nice grappling. As the two scrambled on the mat, Vettori briefly landed in bottom position. Immediately, he swum underneath his foe from half guard and yanked him forward, landing in something of a deep half guard position. He didn’t stay there for long, using that position to drive up onto a takedown along the fence.

Once in top position, Vettori immediately postured up and dropped a flurry of punches. When Roberson turned to stand, he jumped on the back rather than the guillotine — which he had tried earlier — resulting in the submission win (GIF).

Conclusion

Vettori has earned a step up in competition, and now the opportunity has come his way. If he can back up all the trash talk with a win here, Vettori is on a four-fight win streak and a factor in the title mix. Suddenly, that talk of an Adesanya rematch would make a bit more sense.


Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, is a professional fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport’s most elite fighters.