Israel Adesanya fought off some early takedowns at UFC 263, dominating Marvin Vettori to defend his middleweight title.
The big question into heading into the UFC 263 main event on Saturday: who had grown more, Israel Adesanya or Marvin Vettori?
When the pair first met in 2018, Adesanya walked away with a close split decision. While he may downplay it now, the bout was the closest we had seen “The Last Stylebender” come to losing until he actually did, earlier this year in a light heavyweight fight against Jan Blachowicz.
At middleweight, however, Adesanya remained perfect — with Vettori being the only fighter with any claim otherwise.
Adesanya started the fight from kicking range, throwing several front kicks to the body and tagging Vettori with leg kicks. Vettori caught one and took Adesanya down early. The champion got his legs high enough to scramble to his feet. Vettori pressured after eating some leg kicks, throwing a flurry of punches, but Adesanya’s head movement avoided every punch. The leg kicks continued to pepper Vettori, then Adesanya ended a combination with a clean head kick. The round ended soon after, with both fighters having moments.
Vettori landed a leg kick and paid for it with a head kick coming the other way. Vettori shot for a takedown after having little success on the feet, and the fence was able to keep Adesanya standing. The leg kicks continued to add up on Vettori’s lead right leg, prompting him to shoot for a takedown. Adesanya stayed up again and landed a head kick late in the round. The round ended with Adesanya connecting with a head kick at the buzzer.
Vettori started the third round with an early takedown into half guard. Adesanya tried to scramble and Vettori took his back. Vettori nearly got a choke, but Adesanya spun out in time. Adesanya connected with another uppercut and a leg kick. He pounded more leg kicks in, with one knocking Vettori off his feet late in the round. Adesanya was cruising midway through the fight, winning all of the striking exchanges. As the round was about to end, Adesanya landed a kick below the belt.
Vettori charged out in the fourth with a combination that came up short. Adesanya then landed a hard leg kick. Vettori then double-jabbed and shot for a takedown. Vettori got him down, but a beautiful sweep turned things around and the fight returned to the feet. Adesanya mixed a high kick with a leg kick and both landing. Vettori did not have an answer for the counter-striking of Adesanya, failing on a takedown attempt late in the round.
A head kick found the mark for Adesanya right away in the final round. Vettori shot for a takedown that didn’t go anywhere. More leg kicks were on the menu for Adesanya. Vettori shot for takedowns on three occasions. The head kicks continued until the final bell and Adesanya defended his title.