Italian bruiser, Marvin Vettori, will rematch with sensational kickboxer, Israel Adesanya, this Saturday (June 12, 2021) at UFC 263 inside Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona.
It’s honestly somewhat remarkable just how quickly Vettori rose from random Middleweight to obvious contender. Maybe it’s because he spent the better part of 2019 unsuccessfully trying to fight Andrew Sanchez (it happened eventually) and being angry on Twitter (often about the first Adesanya fight), but he certainly wasn’t looked at as a potential contender heading into 2020. Then, he ran through Karl Roberson like a hot knife through butter. Impressive! It was the follow up that did it though: Vettori spanked Jack Hermansson, nearly finishing him in the first then simply hammering away for another 20 minutes when the Swede proved too tough to stop.
A boring wrestle-fest over Kevin Holland didn’t excite anyone, but it didn’t diminish his improvement either. Let’s take a closer look at his skill set:
Vettori has long been a fighter who makes the most of fundamentals, but his kickboxing has become remarkably fine-tuned during his recent victories.
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. 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 Adesanya, Vettori’s ability to put together combinations and fight as a complete mixed martial arts (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.
Finally, Vettori’s performance against Jack Hermansson wasn’t quite a master class, but it was a remarkable showcase on the importance of footwork and range in an open stance match up. Against his right-handed foe, Vettori repeatedly used his jab to win the outside foot position, lining up his left hand. He was crisp and accurate early, and as a result, his straight nearly ended the bout right away (GIF).
The finish didn’t materialize, but the damage was done. Hermansson was now justifiably wary of his foe’s cross, which continued to connect at a good clip. Vettori smartly used the threat of his left hand to back Hermansson into the cage, where he landed further punches and takedowns to remain in control of the bout and further build his lead.
Vettori didn’t do a ton of striking vs. Kevin Holland, but he landed enough left hands to keep his foe honest. Notably, even after being stung by Holland’s long punches, Vettori did well to fire back and counter, preventing his foe from really extending his combinations and doing too much damage.
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 toward 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.
Against Holland, Vettori finished roughly a dozen double legs along the fence. He did so in numerous ways: lifting and slamming, pulling the hips towards him and off the fence, even cutting an angle with his head position at one point to circle Holland’s hips to the canvas. Thanks to his boxing, Vettori was repeatedly able to gain good double leg position along the fence and finish from here.
Defensively, 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.
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. 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).
Vettori is a hard-nosed fighter, plenty willing to walk through fire to get the job done if necessary. However, he’s also shown a deft hand with his defense and punching combinations, and perhaps that duality is necessary to dethrone a striker like “Stylebender.”
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 263 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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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.