Cast your mind back to before UFC 259 in March 2021, when Israel Adesanya was on mission to become a dual-weight simultaneous world champion.
He was up against Jan Blachowicz in the light heavyweight division, having ruled over the middleweight division since his debut in February 2018 and as champion in October 2019.
But what he came up against was not only the legendary Polish Power of the 205lbs champion but also the excellent wrestling and grappling of a man bigger and stronger than him.
Fast forward a few months down the line and the man in line for the next title shot at Adesanya’s original weight class is a man who he’s fought before.
Marvin Vettori and Adesanya first met in April 2018 in the champions second fight with the organisation. It was a close fight that many saw Adesanya winning 29-28 on the scorecards, but one judge saw it differently. Officially the bout went down as a split decision win for Adesanya, but Vettori has held on to that lone wolf judge’s decision ever since.
As three years have passed both men have got better and better, with Vettori yet to lose since. He now comes into the fight against a puzzle that has finally been solved.
Adesanya went into the fight against Blachowicz with many expecting him to be too mobile and too fast and to use his incredible striking to get a knockout win. But as the fight went on and Blachowicz wouldn’t go away, those chances got slimmer and slimmer. Then the wrestling started and it was one-sided.
For Vettori, that is the dream. His stand-up isn’t world class like Adesanya’s but it’s not awful and if he is able to close the distance and get hold of the champion then he will feel he can get the takedown to implement his style of fighting.
Vettori was able to take down Karl Roberson and choke him out with ease back at UFC Vegas 2, then out-grappled a grappler in Jack Hermansson at UFC Vegas 16 before dominating a striker on the ground in Kevin Holland at UFC Vegas 23 in April.
Having fought each other before, they will both know the power and strength the other possesses and while Vettori did get Adesanya down in their first fight the Nigerian was able to get back to his feet eventually.
But after watching how Blachowicz dominated in March, Vettori will surely look to employ similar tactics. He will be more patient on the ground rather than rushing for a finish and while Adesanya is always dangerous on the feet, he never hurt Vettori in their first bout.
The aura of invincibility around Adesanya was gone as soon as Blachowicz took him down the first time in their fight. Now, it’s a chink in the armour of a phenomenal fighter and his next opponent is someone who can exploit it perfectly.
The blueprint is there and Vettori has all the tools to make it happen. No excuses, no complaints. The time is now, or he must forever hold his tongue in a conversation with ‘The Last Stylebender’.