Marvin Vettori's body language speaking volumes to dog-training enthusiast Israel Adesanya

·Combat columnist
·4-min read

Israel Adesanya is about to test a theory. The UFC’s middleweight champion, a guy with more interests than Ben & Jerry’s has flavors, is about to find out if understanding the nonverbal cues that are essential to successfully training a dog can be helpful in the fight game.

Adesanya will defend his title on Saturday in the main event of a loaded UFC 263 card at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona, when he takes on third-ranked Marvin Vettori.

Adesanya has been paying close attention to what Vettori has been saying in his interviews, and posted a clip on his Twitter page of a spot Yahoo Sports did with the Italian challenger.

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“I’m into dog psychology and stuff,” Adesanya said. “I’ve been working with this guy for about four weeks now, and doing that I’ve reinvigorated my love for that stuff. Doing that has made me more aware of nonverbal cues. I’ve got more clips from yours and his interview that exposes a lot.”

One of the portions of the Vettori interview that Adesanya picked up on was when Vettori was asked about taking Adesanya down and not taking advantage of it.

As Vettori answered, he was distracted by someone off camera. He turned and spoke Italian to the person.

“I know exactly what that was,” Adesanya said. “You asked a basic question about him not doing any damage when he was on top [in their first fight in 2018], which is what he’s supposed to do. He had a — duh duh duh duh duh — he just had to disconnect and speak Italian because he had nothing to say.

“Then he came back to the question again. You tried to give him an out but he came back to it again and messed himself up. But there’s more.”

Dog training for fighting might be a whole new business opportunity for the champ if he’s able to parlay the nonverbal cues he’s picking up from his opponent into a victory.

GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 14: (R-L) Israel Adesanya of Nigeria in action during the middleweight fight against Marvin Vettori of Italy during the UFC Fight Night at Gila River Arena on April 14, 2018 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
Israel Adesanya is picking up what Marvin Vettori is putting down. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)

Their first fight was a split decision for Adesanya in what was his second fight in the UFC. Vettori took Adesanya down in the fight and couldn’t defeat him.

But Adesanya’s MMA winning streak ended at 20 in February when he lost a decision to Jan Blachowicz in a bid for the light heavyweight title. Blachowicz took Adesanya down in the last two rounds to nullify Adesanya’s striking and pull out the victory.

That created the narrative that the way to defeat Adesanya is to wrestle him. Vettori is coming off a shutout victory over Kevin Holland in which he scored 11 takedowns on 17 attempts.

Adesanya scoffed at the notion that he’s going to be vulnerable to anyone who brings a wrestle-heavy approach.

“People after this last fight are like, ‘Oh, just take him down and you’ll win the fight,’” Adesanya said. “I’m like, ‘Really? No one’s ever tried that before. And it’s not like I didn’t put Brad Tavares in a guillotine or homeboy’s teammate, Kelvin Gastelum, into a triangle. I single-legged him and I swept him in our last fight. It’s recency bias. People forget. I’m just going to do what I do and they’ll be ‘Oh that’s right. He’s the s***. That’s why he’s the [expletive] middleweight champion of the world.’ ”

Adesanya expects a vastly different fight than their 2018 bout, which coincidentally was in the same arena where they will fight on Saturday.

Since the win over Vettori, Adesanya has gone 7-1, won the middleweight belt and defended it three times. Vettori rebounded from the loss to Adesanya, which he believes he deserved to win, to reel off five consecutive victories and move up to No. 2 in the rankings.

Nothing is similar about those streaks, though, Adesanya said.

“It will play out a lot differently this time,” Adesanya said confidently. “I can say since we last fought, look at the run he’s been on and look at the run I’ve been on. I can name two guys he’s fought who are kind of notable names. You can name every single person I’ve fought. We’re not the same. We’ve been on different trains.

“He’s not fast enough. He hasn’t caught up yet. He’s lagging. He’s way behind.”

If it goes down as he predicts, something unique may happen in the aftermath: Some MMA fighters may take to dog training as a way to better understand their opponents.

Stay tuned.

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