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Fighter on Fighter: Breaking down UFC Vegas 23’s Marvin Vettori – MMA Root

Italian bully Marvin Vettori will face off against eccentric finisher Kevin Holland this Saturday (April 10, 2021) at UFC Vegas 23 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.

No one really knows why Vettori is angry all the time, but it is working for him. The Italian fights with a chip on his shoulder, intimidating opponents around the Octagon with a combination of power shots and takedowns. Since 2017, the only man capable of dueling Vettori has been Israel Adesanya, and the champion escaped with a competitive split decision wink.

Vettori is looking to get that back, and he’s closing in on a title fight thanks to his current four-game winning streak. Let’s take a closer look at his skill set:


Vettori began training in King’s MMA with Rafael Cordeiro in 2015, shortly before his Octagon debut. The Southpaw is a quality athlete with real strength and a deep fuel tank given his high-performance styling, and Cordeiro has helped hone those physical gifts on more dangerous shots.

There is nothing incredibly prominent in Vettori’s kickboxing game. It doesn’t have true one-hit power or a devastating singular kick. However, Vettori creates combinations better than most, particularly while pressing forward and closing the gap.

Vettori is quick to start setting up the jab. It can be too predictable by stepping forward with the jab each time, leaving something open to counterattacks. However, the jab soon pays dividends for the Italian, who can then start building combinations after a couple of landings.

UFC Fight Night: Vettori v Sanchez

Photo by Josh Hedges / Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Unsurprisingly, Vettori seeks to align his cross. Vettori’s best combination is probably the double jab-cross, as Vettori does a good job advancing past his opponents front leg at a favorable angle without getting ahead of himself, which means he can still make a solid crossover. . After the left hand, Vettori will commonly add a right hook.

Against Andrew Sanchez, Vettori’s ability to string together combinations was on full display, in large part because his opponent relied on high guard more than movement. Given a relatively stationary target, Vettori leads with the cross more often at short distances, doubling and tripling his right hook immediately after from a shorter range. With Sanchez still covering, Vettori would also look to hit with his left knee after the right hook lifted his guard.

In his competitive fight with Israel Adesanya, Vettori’s ability to put together combinations and fight like a complete mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter was important. Vettori couldn’t keep up with Adesanya in a pure punching battle, but he still mixed up kick and punch combinations, making it harder to dodge punches (GIF). Also, Vettori’s willingness to close the distance in the clinch or shot helped to further muddy the waters, taking away some of Adesanya’s precision.

Having a brick-like chin also helped.

UFC fight night

Photo by Jennifer Stewart / Getty Images

Finally, Vettori’s performance against Jack Hermansson was not a masterclass, but it was a remarkable showcase on the importance of footwork and range in an open stance match. Against his right-handed foe, Vettori repeatedly used his jab to gain outside foot position, lining up his left hand. He was sharp and accurate at first, and as a result, his fastball almost ended the fight right away (GIF).

The finish didn’t materialize, but the damage was done. Hermansson was now justifiably wary of his enemy’s cross, who was still connecting at a good pace. Vettori cleverly used the threat of his left hand to push Hermansson back into the cage, where he landed more punches and takedowns to maintain control of the fight and further build his advantage.


The importance of physicality cannot be underestimated in wrestling. Vettori may not have an academic background in wrestling, but as a strong middleweight with a long history of MMA training, he is a very solid fighter in the cage.

There are usually two ways Vettori will win first position: catch kicks or grind along the fence. The former is self-explanatory: Vettori will read a looming kick and catch the leg, allowing him to smash through an unbalanced opponent.

Simple, but difficult to stop.

UFC 207: Carlos Junior v Vettori

Photo by Christian Petersen / Getty Images

If Vettori is more actively pursuing the takedown, he likes to work along the fence. More specifically, Vettori likes to work from the upper body clinch, often starting with only one leg before working toward a body lock. If Vettori can’t force his opponent down with just the body block, he’ll be looking to hook a leg for the outside trip. The ride itself doesn’t usually end the chain of takedowns, but it does convince opponents to turn their backs and deliver the clinch from behind.

From there, it’s pretty straightforward to get an opponent to the mat.

Perhaps of greater importance to this matchup is Vettori’s takedown defense, which has an impressive 80 percent success rate. In fact, Vettori hasn’t been knocked down since 2016, and more recently he rebuffed the attempts of Andrew Sánchez and Cezar Ferreira largely on the strength of well … their strength.

UFC 207: Carlos Junior v Vettori

Photo by Christian Petersen / Getty Images

In that 2016 fight with Antonio Carlos Junior, Vettori generally did a good job defending the takedown, even reversing an attempt to win first place. However, “Shoeface” is a sticky grip master, and he repeatedly forced exchanges until he was able to duck back, similar to Vettori’s own style.

It was the case of a young prospect who found someone better at his own game, which is always a tough game.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

A brown jiu-jitsu belt with nine wins via tapout, Vettori looks for the neck.

The guillotine is the favorite movement of Italians. Most often, he attacks the front choke when his opponent stands up. Vettori quickly gets up and throws punches from the top position, creating space for his opponent to try to stand up. Often times, the neck is somewhat exposed when the hands are pushed off the ground or the opponent.

UFC 202: Uda v Vettori

Photo by Josh Hedges / Zuffa LLC / Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

In his UFC debut, Vettori scored a cross guillotine. From the frontal head-lock position, Vettori isolated his head and arm and crossed it over his body, using his hip to prevent Alberto Uda from pulling his arm out. From this position, Vettori can twist in the grip, slashing one side of his enemy’s neck with his arm and the other with the pinned shoulder.

Against Karl Roberson, Vettori showed good grip. As the two clambered up the carpet, Vettori briefly landed in the bottom position. Immediately, he swam under his enemy from mid-guard and pulled him forward, landing in a deep mid-guard position. He didn’t stay there long, using that position to drive to a takedown along the fence.

Once in the top position, Vettori immediately got up and dropped a series of blows. When Roberson turned to stand, he jumped from behind instead of the guillotine, which he had tried earlier, resulting in the submission victory (.GIF).


Vettori and Holland are solid for each other. Vettori is painfully serious and quite focused on the fundamentals, while “Big Mouth” is freakishly goofy and wins on flash. That clash of personality and fighting style should produce an interesting battle, but more importantly, victory should help Vettori rise to the middleweight elite.

Remember it will offer round-by-round, step-by-shot LIVE coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 23 card this weekend, right? here, starting with ESPN / ESPN + “Preliminary” matches, which are scheduled to start at 12 pm ET, then the remaining balance of the main card on ABC / ESPN + at 3 p.m. ET.

For the latest and greatest news and highlights from UFC Vegas 23: “Vettori vs. Holland,” be sure to visit our comprehensive event archive. right here.

Andrew Richardson, a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, is a professional wrestler who trains for Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talents, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport’s most elite fighters.

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