Lets go back to April 14th 2018 at UFC Fight Night: Poirier vs Gaethje in Glendale, Arizona. The lightweight division took a step forward as ‘The Diamond’ sent ‘The Highlight’ to a second consecutive defeat in his career with a fantastic main event fight.
However earlier in the night, the middleweight division had a similar moment in it’s rankings as the undefeated Israel Adesanya fought against the Italian stallion that is Marvin Vettori.
It was a very closely contested fight and one that took the now middleweight champion of the world Adesanya to the judges scorecards for the first time in his entire career. It was the first time too that ‘The Last Stylebender’ had been seen to have lost a round, with one judge even scoring the fight in Vettori’s favour.
Overall the fight went Adesanya’s way, but it was the only time it had even been under consideration that he’d lost a fight until UFC 259 saw him convincingly beaten by light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz.
That night Vettori left the octagon in disgust at the decision, believing he had done enough to claim a win. He then took a year away from the cage following a positive drug test, although it was proven that it wasn’t intentional and instead came from a contaminated supplement.
Since his return in July 2019, Vettori has claimed four straight wins including a submission win in a grudge match against Karl Roberson at UFC Vegas 2 and then his first main event win over Jack Hermansson at UFC Vegas 16 in December.
The win over Hermansson was particularly impressive, as he stepped in on short notice to replace Kevin Holland after he tested positive for COVID-19 a week out from fight night.
Vettori stepped in and dominated Hermansson in all facets of the fight, winning grappling exchanges and landing the much firmer strikes en route to a unanimous decision win. He proved he can go all five rounds, showing a vast improvement from his cardio issues in his earlier UFC career and seemed physically strong enough to go with one of the best in the middleweight division.
After originally being scheduled to fight Darren Till, he now faces Holland in an interesting twist of events. Till broke his collarbone in training and it was Holland who stepped in on short-notice once again, although this bout will come just three weeks out from his last fight where he was soundly beaten by Derek Brunson at UFC Vegas 22.
The game plan for Vettori will be similar to what it would’ve been against Till, push forward to close the distance and look to get the fight down to use his suffocating top game. He has excellent grappling, with nine submission wins in his career and his chin is unblemished with all his defeats only coming via the judge’s scorecards.
With Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum battling the week after, Vettori knows a win will put him right in the conversation for the next title shot and a rematch against Adesanya.
Currently ranked at number six, a win will surely shoot him into the top five at least and that would see him just one win away from the promised land. Whittaker will surely earn himself a rematch with a win against Gastelum which would leave Till, Vettori, Brunson and Paulo Costa to battle it out in a mini-tournament for the next fight.
If Vettori wants to prove to everyone what he has been saying for a while, that he is better than Adesanya, then a win over Holland at UFC Vegas 23 will take him one step closer to being able to prove it once and for all.