Rivalries: Marvin Vettori

By Brian Knapp Oct 21, 2021

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Having become a fixture near the top of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s middleweight division, Marvin Vettori cannot afford another misstep.

The former Venator Fighting Championship titleholder will attempt to bounce back from his first setback in more than three years when he locks horns with Paulo Costa in the UFC Fight Night 196 headliner on Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Vettori has won five of his past six bouts and owns a 7-3-1 record inside the Octagon, his resume anchored by victories over Kevin Holland, Andrew Sanchez, Cezar Ferreira and Vitor Miranda. The 28-year-old operates out of the Kings MMA camp, where he sharpens his skills under legendary trainer Rafael Cordeiro.

As Vettori makes final preparations for his showdown with Costa, a look at a few of the rivalries that have helped shape his career to this point:

Antonio Carlos Jr.

“The Ultimate Fighter Brazil” winner ran Vettori through a labyrinth of takedowns and clinches in capturing a unanimous decision in their three-round encounter on 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 the brush of adversity and reclaimed control in Round 3, where he stifled the Italian prospect in close quarters. The loss was Vettori’s first in the UFC and snapped his six-fight winning streak.

Omari Akhmedov

Vettori fought to a majority draw with the Russian sambo practitioner in a grueling middleweight prelim at UFC 219 on Dec. 30, 2017 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Judges Sal D’Amato and Tony Weeks ruled it a 28-28 stalemate, while Glenn Trowbridge scored it 29-28 for Vettori. Neither man was satisfied with the outcome. Akhmedov raced out to an early advantage by ripping kicks to the inside of the Italian’s lead leg and firing off winging punches with both hands. However, his high-velocity strikes failed to produce a finish and taxed his gas tank. Vettori capitalized on his fatiguing opponent in the second half of the fight and did his best work in the third round, where he lit up the American Top Team representative with a multi-punch volley, a jumping knee and swarming punches before stunning him later with a slashing straight left. It was enough to draw 10-8 nods from D’Amato and Weeks but fell short of procuring the victory.

Karl Roberson

As an emerging dark horse at 185 pounds, Vettori submitted the Dana White’s Contender Series Season 1 graduate with a rear-naked choke in the first round of their UFC on ESPN 10 co-main event on June 13, 2020 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The Italian powerhouse drew the curtain 4:17 into Round 1, turning away an opponent who had missed weight by a whopping 4.5 pounds. Vettori scrambled into top position, threatened with multiple guillotines and softened Roberson with ground-and-pound before advancing to the back and cinching the choke. It was his first successfully executed submission since he dropped a guillotine on Alberto Emiliano Pereira in his August 2016 promotional debut. Vettori and Roberson were involved in a highly publicized hotel lobby altercation a month earlier after the latter was forced to withdraw from their previously scheduled pairing with rhabdomyolysis. Vettori, it seems, got the last word.

Jack Hermansson

Laser-guided left hands, stellar takedown defense and a willingness to go to the end of his rope carried the ascendant Italian to a unanimous decision over 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 the Italian 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 career at the time.

Israel Adesanya

Vettori failed in his bid to capture the undisputed Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight crown, as he was shut out across five rounds against “The Last Stylebender” in the UFC 263 main event on June 12, 2021 at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona. All three cageside judges scored it 50-45. The Kings MMA rep had pushed Adesanya to the brink in a split decision loss at UFC on Fox 29 in April 2018, but he was far less successful in their rematch. Vettori managed to complete four takedowns—one each in the first, third, fourth and fifth rounds—but failed to do enough on the ground to counteract the champion’s considerable advantages on the feet. Adesanya outstruck the Italian in all five rounds and closed the 25-minute affair with a 96-58 edge in significant strikes. Vettori has not fought since.
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