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UFC 263 preview: Israel Adesanya needs to dominate, finish Marvin Vettori to keep hype alive

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Prior to his UFC 259 “champion vs. champion” showdown against light heavyweight kingpin Jan Blachowicz, reigning UFC middleweight titleholder Israel Adesanya was ranked No. 3 on the promotion’s pound-for-pound (P4P) chart, second only to lightweight deity Khabib Nurmagomedov and ex-205 pound champion Jon Jones.

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CHAMPIONSHIP DOUBLEHEADER! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 11, 2021, with two thrilling world championship fights and a Bantamweight banger guaranteed to deliver fireworks. Lightweight champion, Charles Oliveira, will go for his first successful title defense when he takes on No. 1-ranked contender, Dustin Poirier, in the ESPN+streamed pay-per-view (PPV) main event. In UFC 269’s co-headliner, the greatest women’s fighter of all time, Amanda Nunes, defends her 135-pound crown against gritty No. 5-ranked Julianna Pena, while No. 15-seeded Bantamweight contender, Raulian Paiva, and Contender Series star, Sean O’Malley, aim to steal the show.

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Unfortunately for “The Last Stylebender,” who closed as the -250 favorite over the power-punching Pole, his night would end in defeat after five rounds of back-and-forth action. As a result, Adesanya tumbled three spots on the P4P list to No. 6 and lost much of the hype that had fickle fight fans interested in cross-division rivalries.

Which included then-heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic.

The Blachowicz fight was a calculated risk, one that didn’t pay off, and it certainly doesn’t hurt the champ’s stock at 185 pounds. It did, however, serve as a reminder that Adesanya has not always been perfect inside the Octagon, registering a pair of close calls against Marvin Vettori (UFC on FOX 29) and Kelvin Gastelum (UFC 236).

And let’s not even bring up his stinker against Yoel Romero.

That’s why Adesanya may need more than just a win when he rematches Vettori in the UFC 263 pay-per-view (PPV) main event this Sat. night (June 12, 2021) inside Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona. “The Italian Dream” has been running around telling anyone who will listen that his “Stylebender” loss was the biggest robbery since Pearson vs. Sanchez.

“There was a lot of clout behind Adesanya, everyone thought he was really good,” former middleweight champion Chris Weidman told ESPN. “But then I remember it getting back to me that some Italian guy who wasn’t a wrestler was outwrestling him. Adesanya is a weak guy for the weight class. He’s smaller and skinny — which is why he has great cardio and great range — but if you grab him, he’s not that strong.”

It’s up to Adesanya to prove his performance against Blachowicz was the exception and not the rule. It’s easy to pin that loss on the disparity in both size and strength, but only if “The Last Stylebender” completely dominates Vettori from bell-to-bell. Anything less could put an end to his dreams of moving back to light heavyweight for a second title.

“For me, nothing has changed since that loss,” Adesanya told Daily Telegraph about his longterm goals. “Nothing. I still plan to achieve everything I set out to initially. My story isn’t over yet.”

That may depend on what happens against Vettori on Saturday night.

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.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 263 news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here. For the complete “Adesanya vs. Vettori 2” fight card and PPV lineup click here.