Israel Adesanya picks apart Marvin Vettori to retain title, calls out Robert Whittaker

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·Combat columnist
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GLENDALE, ARIZONA - JUNE 12: Israel Adesanya of Nigeria punches Marvin Vettori of Italy in their UFC middleweight championship fight during the UFC 263 event at Gila River Arena on June 12, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
GLENDALE, ARIZONA - JUNE 12: Israel Adesanya of Nigeria punches Marvin Vettori of Italy in their UFC middleweight championship fight during the UFC 263 event at Gila River Arena on June 12, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

If Jan Blachowicz showed the path to blueprint for defeating Israel Adesanya, Marvin Vettori didn’t pick up on it. It was Adesanya, not Vettori, who appeared to learn from that light heavyweight title fight that Blachowicz won.

Adesanya was brilliant Saturday in the main event of UFC 263, retaining his middleweight championship with a shutout of the third-ranked Italian challenger. Vettori tried, as Blachowicz did in February to get the middleweight champion down.

But on the occasions that Vettori was successful, Adesanya managed to get up each time and used his massive edge in striking to dominate the fight.

Adesanya fought less than a month after his friend and training partner, Fau Vake, was murdered in New Zealand. He laid the belt on the canvas at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arena, dropped to his knees and bowed his head in memory of Vake.

“Fau Vake, I love you man,” Adesanya said. “This fight I dedicate to you.”

It was a flawless performance by Adesanya, whose striking was on point throughout. He kicked Vettori’s left leg repeatedly and at one point, kicked it out from under him.

He showed his wizardry with his hands, as well, evading strikes and then connecting to the chin repeatedly. He mixed things up and was throwing low and high kicks, lefts and rights and Vettori never knew where, or where, the strikes were coming from.

Vettori oddly thought he won the fight, even though his coach, Rafael Cordeiro, was pleading with him after every round to pick up the pace and get more aggressive.

He got several takedowns, but unlike in their first fight in 2018, Vettori wasn’t able to hold him down. Adesanya would work his way back to his feet and go on to pick Vettori apart.

He never dropped Vettori with punches or seriously hurt him, but there was little doubt that Adesanya was in command throughout.

After the fight, he called out former champion Robert Whittaker, whom he knocked out in the second round in Australia in 2019.

“We need to run that back in Auckland, in my territory this time,” Adesanya said. “Why? I’m the f***ing king, b****!”

There was little doubt that on this night, Adesanya was king of the cage. Vettori had little to threaten him and Adesanya was, as he has been throughout most of his reign, dominant.

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