Israel Adesanya is still the king of the middleweight division after another masterful performance in the UFC 263 main event.
While he didn’t get to deliver a flashy finish this time around, “The Last Stylebender” was still just as dominant as he battered Marvin Vettori on the feet over five rounds, dismantling the Italian challenger with kicks to the legs and showcasing the striking arsenal that has decorated his entire career inside the octagon.
When the fight was over, the judges all scored the fight 50-45 for Adesanya as he bounces back from the first loss of his career — falling to light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz — but remaining undefeated at 185 pounds with another title defense on his resume.
“I was just saying at the end of the day, I don’t like you, you don’t like me but this is martial arts, show some respect,” Adesanya relayed to Joe Rogan during his post-fight speech when revealing what he said to Vettori afterwards. “Cause that’s lost in this game so you need to have that.
Like I said, even at the press conference when he stood up, I sat down because I didn’t feel any threat.”
Showing no nerves in his first title fight, Vettori was aggressive early, securing a takedown and closing the distance to prevent Adesanya showcasing his dynamic striking offense. Back on the feet, Adesanya was able to connect with some stinging leg kicks but Vettori was undeterred as he continued moving forward while launching punches in succession.
Despite the constant pressure from Vettori, Adesnanya was starting to really chip away at the lead leg and then coming back up top with the head kick. While the kicks were largely defended, Vettori still had to absorb the brunt of the impact as Adesanya was keeping him guessing with his lightning quick combinations.
Even with Adesanya volunteering to back up against the cage, Vettori just couldn’t find a home for his best punches and the pursuit opened him up for the counter strikes.
After a dose of urgency from his head coach Rafael Cordeiro, Vettori snatched a takedown right away at the start of round three and after taking the back, it appeared for a moment that he might have the rear-naked choke sunk in. A split second later the submission was gone after Adesanya twisted and turned to reverse the position before the fight got back to the feet again.
While Vettori continued to close the distance, Adesanya kept finding a way to circle away and then make him pay with more of those same kicks to the legs before going back up top to the head with his punches. Adesanya even managed to drop Vettori to his knee momentarily after another of those same blistering kicks just chopped away at his opponent’s foundation.
With a finish as his only route to victory, Vettori didn’t come out guns blazing in the final round but he did stay in the pocket, refusing to go away despite absorbing more and more of Adesanya’s best shots. Still, Adesanya was just picking him apart on the feet and Vettori could only take solace in the fact that he managed to make it to the final horn in his first UFC title fight.
With the win, Adesanya remains the UFC middleweight champion but his main concern after the fight was paying tribute to a fallen friend.
“One of our boys, one of the guys that was on the way up to the UFC got murdered,” Adesanya shouted. “Let’s not mince words. He got murdered by some thugs who are still walking around free.
“I just want to say Fau Vake, I love you man. This fight I dedicate to you, Fau.”
After picking his belt back up from the canvas, Adesanya then turned his attention to former champion Robert Whittaker, who was previously declared as the No. 1 contender in the division.
“My arch nemesis, that other c*nt, what’s his name [Robert] Whittaker, ‘Bobby Knuckles,,” Adesanya said. “I don’t know what the f*ck’s going to happen with this whole COVID sh*t but we need to run that back in Auckland. We need to run that back in my territory this time.
“I’ll tell you when it is. You don’t get to decide, I get to decide — cause why… I’m the motherf*cking king, b*tch.”