ISRAEL Adesanya, the most accomplished striker currently competing inside the Octagon, returns to defend his middleweight championship this weekend aboard a tremendous triple five-round UFC card in Glendale, Arizona.
Expect ‘The Last Stylebender’ to rubber stamp his status as the division’s number one by toying with Italian bull Marvin Vettori, following a rematch of one of the best fights of 2020 when flyweight champ Deiveson Figueiredo turns it back with Brandon Moreno.
And, completing the hat-trick of 25-minute fights, Birmingham’s Leon Edwards gets the opponent his legacy requires in a final title eliminator at 170lb against fan favourite Nate Diaz.
Vettori wasn’t anybody’s first choice when it came to selling a numbered American par-per-view card, but ‘Angry Marvin’ has earned this return with Adesanya, three years after their first encounter.
The challenger was like a dear in the headlines of the soon-to-be champion when they first met in 2018, being outstruck in the first two rounds before managing a couple of takedowns in the final five minutes to peak the scoring judge’s interest.
The split decision, however, lends more to poor judging than it does to Vettori’s impact on the fight. But that was three years ago and a lot has changed since.
— MMA On Point (@OnPointMMA) June 7, 2021
The California-based Trento native may have impressed winning five straight, but his evolution pales into comparison compared to that of the champion. Adesanya arrived in the UFC in in February 2018 with an exciting reputation from kickboxing, but nobody could have predicted the impact he’s had on the sport.
Unbeaten in 20 fights with 15 knockouts and seven performances bonuses in his first nine Octagon outings, his assentation to the top is littered with highlight reel moments against leading contenders.
His decision to jump up to light heavyweight in March to join the elite two-weight champion club may have backfired, but being shut down by Jan Blachowicz – a man naturally 20lb+ bigger – will have only stoked the fire inside the champion.
Back in his true weight class and facing a familiar foe, Adesanya will leave a reminder this weekend that he’s still one of the very best mixed martial artists on the planet and his chase for greatness is still on track, despite suffering his first defeat.
Likewise, Moreno has it all to do against ‘Lord of the Flies’ Figueiredo. Their first fight, scored a draw, was a cracker, but arrived after a ridiculous 21-day turnaround for the champion who was also deducted a point for a low blow.
Challenger Moreno has never been stopped in his 18-5 career… until now?
Finally, ‘Rocky’ Edwards’ claims for an overdue welterweight title shot will be heard after he busts up Diaz to revel in the biggest win of his career. Slashing elbows should do enough damage to force either a stoppage on cuts or give the judges an easy decision.