- Samson Omale
UFC 263: Israel Adesanya Retains Middleweight Title
Nigeria born Israel Adesanya has added a third gem to his belt, defending the UFC middleweight championship against Marvin Vettori at UFC 263 in Arizona.
In a masterclass of striking and distance control, Adesanya blanked Vettori - winning all five rounds on his way to a unanimous decision win. The UFC adds a ruby to the belt of title holders for every successful defence, of which Adesanya now has three.
Returning to the middleweight division after a brief move up to the light heavyweight ranks, Adesanya reminded everyone who is the king of the 84kg division, outclassing Vettori.
The bout played out in similar fashion to their first encounter in 2018. Adesanya kept Vettori on the end of his range for much of the bout, peppering the Italian's lead leg and mixing in an array of strikes to the head and body.
Vettori brought the pressure in the fight, constantly moving forward, but struggled to land cleanly on Adesanya, whose head movement was on full display.
After Adesanya was beaten by Jan Blachowicz in his bid to add the light heavyweight title to his collection thanks to Blachowicz's wrestling, many believed that would be Vettori's best key to victory.
It wasn't long before Adesanya showed he was a more than capable grappler, and fought off 10 of Vettori's 14 takedown attempts during the bout. While there was a brief moment in the third round where Vettori looked to be in position to catch Adesanya in a rear naked choke, the champion was able to quickly get free.
After the bout, Adesanya dedicated his performance to Fau Vake, a teammate of his at Auckland's City Kickboxing gym who recently died after being attacked from behind during a night out in the city.
"I love you, man. This fight I dedicate to you Fau," Adesanya said before placing the belt in the centre of the octagon. Even in his last sparring with me, he whipped my ass. I have to give you credit, Fau. I'm never going to get that one back, but I'm glad you whipped my ass in your last sparring."
A similar sentiment was shared by fellow City Kickboxing athlete Brad Riddell, who beat Drew Dober by unanimous decision in a bout that later saw the pair awarded with a US$50,000 Fight of the Night bonus.
"I was never going to lose this fight," Riddell said. "I had a driving force that was bigger than me, and I'm very, very grateful that I still get to walk on this planet. I miss you Fau, and I hope you're proud."
As has been the case in all of his UFC bouts to date, Riddell was bested in the first round, before coming back strong in the second and third to take the bout.
With a win over the No 13-ranked Dober, Riddell should find himself in the lightweight rankings next week as he continues his rise in arguably the promotion's deepest division.