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UFC 202: Uda v Vettori Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

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Fighter on Fighter: Breaking down UFC Vegas 41’s Marvin Vettori

Middleweight bruiser, Marvin Vettori, will throw down opposite fellow brawler, Paulo Costa, this Saturday (Oct. 23, 2021) at UFC Vegas 41 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.

We think.

Vettori seemingly walks around in a fairly permanent state of frustration, but at the moment at least, his current feelings are understandable. In 2018, Vettori came close to defeating Israel Adesanya, but the decision didn’t go his way. For the next three years, Vettori dramatically improved, scored the best wins of his career, and kept his focus on the “Stylebender” rematch ... only to do worse in the second fight.

Frustrating.

Now, Vettori finds himself in the unenviable position of trying to score another title shot against a man who has bested him twice. The road to such a trilogy is filled with extremely difficult fights, and that begins here.

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

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Striking

Vettori has long been a fighter who makes the most of fundamentals, but he’s really refined his punching form and technique over the years.

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.

UFC 263: Adesanya v Vettori 2 Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

As one would expect, Vettori is looking to line up his cross. Vettori’s best combination is likely the double jab-cross, as the Southpaw 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 first 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).

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

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.

In the Adesanya rematch, Vettori had a lot of trouble finding his range on the left hand despite landing a decent amount of jabs. Adesanya maintained an especially long distance, and the kickboxer made use of all his experience and tricky to set up low kicks. In general, Vettori did well to avoid eating his foe’s hardest punches, but Adesanya’s ability to hide calf kicks behind stance switches and punches proved the deciding factor.

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.

UFC 207: Carlos Junior v Vettori Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

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.

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

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.

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. 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.

UFC 202: Uda v Vettori Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

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 and Costa are both hard-nosed volume punchers who are comfortable trading in the pocket. They present similar threats to their opponents, relying on physicality to win wars of attrition. One man will prove himself superior in this style, and that’s the fighter who can look to rebuild momentum for another shot at gold.


Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 41 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ at 4 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 41: “Costa vs. Vettori” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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.

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