This weekend at UFC Paris, Robert Whittaker and Marvin Vettori are set to square off in a middleweight bout that has almost no implications on the top of the division. Both men are 0-2 against current champion Israel Adesanya but the fight in a bubble should be fun none the less. Whittaker is as cerebral as it gets and Vettori seemingly never goes away.
So, let’s break down the fight!
UFC Paris Tale of the Tape
Going into UFC Paris, both of these fighters are putting on a good fight for fans. One will drop out of gate keeper status and free up a spot for someone else in the top five. Robert Whittaker is the former middleweight champion and Vettori is the former challenger. Both lost to Israel Adesanya twice. But their stories have been quite different.
Whittaker lost his title at UFC 243 against Adesanya but went on a great streak to get back to the title by knocking off Darren Till, Jared Cannonier and Kelvin Gastelum. In his rematch with Adesanya he gave a much better account of himself by going the distance instead of being knocked out. You could tell Whittaker was smarter in that fight and he was a better fighter than the first time the two fought in 2019. Now, he looks at alternative ways to become champion again and one being a potential move to 205.
For Vettori, he was fed to Israel Adesanya as Izzy was coming up through the ranks and gave the future champion trouble with the clinch in that fight. Adesanya took the split decision and Vettori went off on a tear of wins after that, clawing his way to a rematch. He beat Cezar Ferreira, Andrew Sanchez, Karl Roberson, Jack Hermansson, and Kevin Holland before fighting Adesanya again. That fight was more decisive as Vettori couldn’t find any offense. After that fight, we had the Vettori-Costa fiasco which was one of the most meme-tastic fights to ever grace our presence.
Marvin Vettori: Tough fight, But he’s good there
The fight with Whittaker for Vettori is a tough one, but Vettori is usually good in these tough fights. He may not win them all but he usually gives a good account of himself. Whittaker will likely be one of those where he does look about as good as he actually is. Vettori seems to thrive against fighters who will swing and bang with him all day. But against fighters who are tricky, he struggles. Whittaker is tricky.
For Vettori, I’d like to see him use his size in this fight. Push Whittaker up against the cage and make him work to get out. Damage isn’t necessary here, just make him tired and work the body a little bit. That will be enough to slow the speedy Rob Whittaker down and put the fight in a place where Vettori can hit him. Getting Whittaker tired is easier said than done, of course.
This is only a three round fight and not the type that would see Whittaker drug into deep waters. Even if it were, Whittaker has been in these situations before with Romero and Adesanya and had no real trouble. Vettori is going to need to kick and punch the body from the get to make this strategy work for him.
Second thing for Vettori, and this is a tough ask, is to not fall for Whittaker’s traps. Robert Whittaker is great at drawing out strikes so he can slip and counter them. He will bring the high kick into play too to keep Marvin Vettori honest. With Vettori’s hit and get hit style, this could be disastrous for him. He needs to mind his manners and understand that every time Whittaker looks like he’s going to throw that he isn’t necessarily going to.
Robert Whittaker: Just Be Smart
For Robert Whittaker, Vettori can be a fight that puts him back on the map. Robert Whittaker is a very good fighter. It’s just that Izzy is slightly better. Whittaker is smart, he brings the fight every time, and he’s not afraid to get hurt. Marvin Vettori brings the exact type of fight that Robert Whittaker can absolutely shine in. But it’s not a foregone conclusion. Much like the main event between Ciryl Gane and Tai Tuivasa, there are some things that Whittaker needs to be aware of to not let the fight slip away.
Robert Whittaker has astounding footwork from his karate days. Vettori will likely go in to show Whittaker that he’s the bigger man, again something Vettori hasn’t had trouble within the past with fighters like Yoel Romero and Jared Cannonier. But the threat still looms that Vettori will lean on him against the cage and make this fight ugly. Whittaker will want to make sure to never exit on a straight angle and let Vettori get in a clinch situation where he can press against the cage. This will keep him out of those bad spots and give the judges the thought that Vettori is winning this fight.
Another thing Robert Whittaker needs to understand about Marvin Vettori is just how tough he is to put away. He’s never been knocked out. Izzy didn’t do it and while he isn’t a power puncher, he’s still accurate and can turn the lights out. Whittaker needs to be prepared for three rounds which shouldn’t be a problem. But if Vettori doesn’t go away, he can get frustrated and that’s something that can cause Whittaker to get reckless. Just be patient. If Vettori falls, great! If not, you’ll still likely take the decision.
With both of these fighters having two losses to Adesanya, I don’t see a title shot in the future for either of them. Maybe Brunson can fight Vettori if he wins and Costa versus Whittaker if Rob stays at 185. But until then, we have top three matchup with two of the four good middleweights in the division for us to enjoy at UFC Paris!
In addition to covering the UFC for My MMA News, Blaine Henry, the author, also analyzes fights from all combat sports across the globe.
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Your friendly neighborhood fight fan. I watch way too many fights and my wife lets me know it.