Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight contenders Robert Whittaker and Marvin Vettori will duel this weekend (Sat., Sept. 3, 2022) at UFC Paris inside Accor Arena in Paris, France.
These two athletes enter this co-main event slot in rather similar positions. Both have more than proven themselves as current members of the Top Five, but each has a pair of losses to Israel Adesanya holding him back as well. In Whittaker’s case, at least, he’s made it clear that he’s gunning for one more shot at “Stylebender” followed by a 205-pound move, but Vettori’s path is even less certain given that his second showdown with Adesanya went worse than their initial scrap.
While the path back to the title is likely to be long for each man so long as Adesanya holds the crown, this is still a tremendous fight between elite Middleweights. Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Yoel Romero (UFC 225, UFC 213), Darren Till (UFC on ESPN 14), Jared Cannonier (UFC 254), Kelvin Gastelum (UFC Vegas 24), Ronaldo Souza (UFC on FOX 24), Derek Brunson (UFC Fight Night 101), Uriah Hall (UFC 193)
Key Losses: Israel Adesanya (UFC 271, UFC 243), Stephen Thompson (UFC 170), Court McGee (UFC Fight Night 27)
Keys to Victory: Whittaker is really one of the sport’s best counter wrestlers. The Aussie is nearly impossible to take down thanks to his rangy and athletic kickboxing style, and in recent years, he’s also started looking for takedowns of his own.
Vettori is a solid kickboxer, but he doesn’t have the depth of skill of Whittaker in that realm, nor does he seem capable of matching the Aussie’s speed. Specifically, Whittaker should likely have a significant advantage at distance, where he’s quicker to explode into combinations and suddenly cover distance. Against the Southpaw Vettori, Whittaker’s favorite sneaky right high kick should work wonderfully.
Whittaker has to stay mobile in order to make the most of his kickboxing advantage. Vettori is likely to try to bully him and get his wrestling going, which will be the most feasible along the cage. If Whittaker is able to stick him with a jab and circle off back to the center, “The Italian Dream” is likely in for a long, frustrating night.
Key Wins: Jack Hermansson (UFC Vegas 16), Kevin Holland (UFC Vegas 23), Karl Roberson (UFC on ESPN 10), Cezar Ferreira (UFC Fight Night 155), Andrew Sanchez (UFC Fight Night 161)
Key Losses: Israel Adesanya (UFC 263, UFC on FOX 29), Antonio Carlos Junior (UFC 207)
Keys to Victory: Vettori is a durable and powerful Middleweight veteran. Still just 28 years old, Vettori has accrued a huge amount of experience opposite top-caliber competition, and he’s developed a very well-rounded overall game.
Vettori has to find a way to close the distance here. Realistically, I don’t think wrestling Whittaker is the way to do it. If prime Yoel Romero couldn’t consistently take nor hold Whittaker down, then it just seems unlikely that Vettori is able to find real success in that realm.
That doesn’t mean, however, that he shouldn’t try for some takedowns. Vettori’s real path to victory might involve frequently striking on the breaks of failed shots, or converting takedown attempts into clinch control and dirty boxing. While in close, Vettori’s strength may prove more important than Whittaker’s quickness.
Lastly, I’d like to see Vettori trying to cut off the cage with kicks. Whittaker moves his feet well, but that’s much more challenging to accomplish when a pressure fighter is smartly timing low or body kicks. Freezing Whittaker in place with a kick could buy Vettori an opening to fire off a combination or at least stick him with a single shot.
These two are dueling for the No. 2 position at 185 lbs.
While “Stylebender” remains champion, a title fight is going to be difficult to come by for either man. It will take a prolonged win streak: a minimum of three elite victories. Fortunately, if Alex Pereira were to dethrone Adesanya, then a new avenue towards the title is once again open. In that case, the victor of this weekend’s bout would be in pretty great position!
Defeat definitely makes that title shot a far more distant goal. Whittaker still has the option of jumping to Light Heavyweight at least, but Vettori has never really expressed that interest. Fortunately for the Italian, he’s still young enough to build another streak if need be.
At UFC Paris, Robert Whittaker and Marvin Vettori will go to war in the co-main event. Which man has his hand raised?