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Marvin Vettori chased his rematch with Israel Adesanya for more than three years, until matchmakers were left with no other choice than to grant his wish.
Vettori will challenge “The Last Stylebender” for the undisputed Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight title when they face off for a second time in the UFC 263 headliner on Saturday at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona. The 27-year-old Kings MMA representative has pieced together a five-fight winning streak since his split decision loss to Adesanya in 2018. Vettori last appeared at UFC on ABC 2, where he took apart Kevin Holland and cruised to a five-round unanimous verdict on April 10.
As Vettori makes final preparations for his rematch with Adesanya, a look at five of the moments that have come to define him:
1. Regional Summit
“The Italian Dream” laid claim to the Venator Fighting Championship welterweight crown with a unanimous decision over Daniele Scatizzi in the Guerrieri Italiani tournament final on May 30, 2015 at Unipol Arena in Bologna, Italy. Vettori controlled extended periods of the match with takedowns, stifling top control and effective ground-and-pound. He grew visibly fatigued—perhaps a byproduct of a harsh weight cut—in the third round but managed to cut off an increasingly desperate Scatizzi by absorbing punching bursts, luring him into clinch range and dumping him to the mat. Vettori neutralized one last rush from the SBG Ireland export with roughly 30 seconds left on the clock, executing his final takedown at a most opportune time. He was later stripped of Venator welterweight title due to a failed weight cut that necessitated his move to 185 pounds.
2. Unheralded Arrival
Vettori made a splash in his Ultimate Fighting Championship debut, as he submitted Alberto Emiliano Pereira with a guillotine choke in the first round of their UFC 202 middleweight prelim on Aug. 20, 2016 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Pereira raised the white flag 4:30 into Round 1. Vettori answered a takedown from the Brazilian with one of his own, settled in full guard and chipped away with ground-and-pound. Pereira bottled up the Italian with a body triangle from the bottom but left himself vulnerable by loosening his guard. Vettori wheeled to the back and then slid into position for the arm-in guillotine. It was a strong first impression.
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3. Reality Bites
“The Ultimate Fighter Brazil” winner Antonio Carlos Jr. ran Vettori through a labyrinth of takedowns and clinches, as he captured a unanimous decision from the Italian upstart as part of the UFC 207 undercard on Dec. 30, 2016 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 29-28 for Carlos Jr. Vettori had his moments but struggled to get traction. A foul-filled first round—the two middleweights traded eye pokes—gave way to a strong second for the former Venator Fighting Championship titleholder. Vettori punched into top position and then cracked the Brazilian with elbows and hammerfists before fishing for a guillotine. Carlos Jr. withstood his brush with adversity and reclaimed control in Round 3, where he stifled the Kings MMA rep in close quarters. The loss snapped Vettori’s career-best six-fight winning streak.
4. Close Encounter of the First Kind
Adesanya kept his perfect professional record intact and moved to 13-0 with a split decision over Vettori in their UFC on Fox 29 middleweight showcase on April 14, 2018 at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona. All three judges scored it 29-28: Derek Cleary and Chris Hayes for the victorious City Kickboxing star, Chris Lee for Vettori. Adesanya outlanded the former Venator Fighting Championship titleholder by small margins in the first and second rounds, built a lead and weathered a pair of takedowns in the third. A little more than a year later, Adesanya climbed to the top of the middleweight division—a perch he occupies to this day. Vettori, meanwhile, has not lost since.
5. An Emerging Contender
Laser-guided left hands, stellar takedown defense and a willingness to go to the end of his rope carried the ascendant Rafael Cordeiro protégé to a unanimous decision over Jack Hermansson in the UFC on ESPN 19 headliner on Dec. 5, 2020 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. A short-notice substitution for Kevin Holland, Vettori swept the scorecards with 49-46, 49-46 and 49-45 marks from the judges. Hermansson ran into early difficulty, as Vettori dropped him with a left hand in the first round and pursued a finish on the ground with punches and elbows before his bid for a guillotine choke failed. Drawing on his guile and experience, the Swede battled back in the second and third rounds by moving forward and uncorking combinations. A pep talk from Cordeiro after Round 3 appeared to breathe new life into Vettori. The Kings MMA product fought through fatigue across the final 10 minutes, tearing into Hermansson with one left cross after another to punctuate the most important victory of his 21-fight career.