Retro Robbery Review: Israel Adesanya vs. Marvin Vettori 1 at UFC on FOX 29

Marvin Vettori and israel Adesanya at UFC on FOX 29 in Glendale, Ariz., on April 14, 2018 | Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Few things infuriate MMA fans more than a fight being scored incorrectly, though the term “robbery” tends to be thrown around carelessly and is often steeped in bias. With Robbery Review, we’ll take a look back at controversial fights and determine whether the judges were rightly criticized for their decision or if pundits need to examine their own knee-jerk reactions.

Ask Marvin Vettori and he’ll tell you that it’s Israel Adesanya who should be grateful to have the opportunity to run this one back.

Much of the build to Adesanya and Vettori’s rematch at UFC 263 has revolved around Vettori’s unwavering belief that he defeated Adesanya in their first meeting at UFC on FOX 29 three years ago. That April 2018 fight just so happened to take place at Gila Rivera Arena in Glendale, Ariz., where the middleweights meet again on Saturday.

Here’s what Vettori claimed that Adesanya said to him after the split verdict went in Adesanya’s favor:

“After the fight, he knew he lost; he really knew he lost,” Vettori told MMA Junkie. “He came up and told me, ‘We’ll do it again. Don’t worry. We’re going to meet again.’ He was looking all kind of like beaten. His mind was beaten. Then he went up to my coaches and is like, ‘Ah yeah, maybe I will come to train.’ He was humbled a lot by my performance against him. Then right after he goes out and talks (expletive) on media. That’s what pissed me off, because he’s like a double-faced piece of crap. That’s what he is. So my performance, I was solid. I definitely think that I won the fight. But the judges didn’t see it that way.”

Both fighters have gone on to enormous success since that fateful day, with Adesanya becoming the undisputed UFC champion at 185 pounds and Vettori rattling off five straight wins to work his way to a second crack at “The Last Stylebender.” The beef between these two never went away and Vettori has always maintained that he has the perfect style to beat Adesanya (something he thinks he’s already done).

As recently as this past weekend, Adesanya and Vettori bickered over the UFC on FOX 29 result, so we figure why not take this one to the Robbery Review lab to get a proper reading on how it all went down:

What was the official result?

Israel Adesanya def. Marvin Vettori via split decision.

How did the fight go?

At first, Vettori wasn’t afraid to stand with Adesanya, a decorated kickboxer. He threw early and often while Adesanya was content to work his jab. Vettori’s first attempt to take the fight to the ground was foiled as Adesanya showed great strength and balance to avoid a trip. Adesanya won the majority of the exchanges, though neither man landed anything of major impact in round one. Adesanya’s best weapon was his jab and straight punches, while Vettori scored with some good strikes to the body.

Adesanya’s takedown defense was huge in this fight. Round two opened up with another failed trip, which Vettori paid for as he ate a big left hand. Adesanya started to lock in, scoring with more straight punches and an inside leg kick. Vettori did a good job keeping up the pressure, but he missed more than he made. On the other hand, Adesanya had the counters going as well and he landed a beautiful elbow that Vettori tried to play off as an eye poke. You can tell Adesanya had a lot of respect for Vettori’s wrestling because even though he led the dance, he never fully committed to a fight-ending flurry.

Vettori came out in the third like a fighter who seemed to know he might be done. He got right in Adesanya’s face and connected with a quick combo before Adesanya backed him up with punches again. Vettori ducked in for a well-timed shot and finally put Adesanya on his back. Adesanya prevented Vettori from initiating offense, but Vettori was heavy on top. Back on the feet, Vettori stayed glued to Adesanya and scored another takedown, which again resulted in control without much damage. Referee Herb Dean called for a reset with less than 90 seconds remaining in the fight and Adesanya outboxed Vettori in the final minute.

What did the judges say?

Derek Cleary scored it 29-28 Adesanya.

Chris Hayes scored it 29-28 Adesanya.

Chris Lee scored it 29-28 Vettori.

The first round was the point of contention, with Cleary and Hayes scoring it for Adesanya, and Lee for Vettori.

Suffice to say, Adesanya did not agree with Lee’s scorecard as he suggested post-fight that the judge who scored against him should “stop doing meth.”

What did the numbers say?

(Statistics per UFC Stats)

Unsurprisingly, Adesanya had a comfortable lead in significant strikes at 57-46. He won round one 24-18 and round two 23-15. The third belonged to Vettori 13-10.

Adesanya won the head strike battle 31-20, with an edge in all three rounds, while Vettori won on leg kicks 19-15 including a 5-0 mark in the third. Vettori was credited with two successful takedowns and 3:18 of control time, but notably was not credited with a single significant strike on the ground.

What did the media say?

Among media scoring the fight on MMA Decisions, there was little controversy. Fifteen media members scored the fight 29-28 for Adesanya, with just two leaning towards a 29-28 Vettori score.

What did the people say?

(Data derived from MMA Decisions and Verdict MMA)

The fan vote on MMA Decisions was more divided, with 57.7 percent going with the 29-28 Adesanya score and a not-insubstantial 32 percent having it 29-28 Vettori. Rounds two and three were clear for Adesanya and Vettori, respectively, while 64.1 percent of voters had Adesanya taking round one.

Verdict MMA user voting was along the same lines, though they saw round one much more definitively for Adesanya.

Israel Adesanya & Marvin Vettori first competed in April of 2018.

Judge Chris Lee scored the fight in favor of Vettori.

Here’s a comparison between the Global Scorecard & the scores of the cage-side judges.#UFC263 pic.twitter.com/bik8sfaryi

— Verdict (@VerdictMMA) June 8, 2021

That scoring system takes the cumulative total of every submitted fan score (filtering out aberrant scores like random 10-7s if they comprise less than one percent of the total) in every round and divides by the amount of submitted scores to determine the winner of each round and also in totality.

Adesanya was up 180 points going into round three, so Vettori’s solid performance in that frame did little to change the outcome, a 151-point win for Adesanya.

How did I score it?

First two rounds for Adesanya, last round for Vettori.

Adesanya was the more effective striker throughout the fight and probably landed the most substantial blows in the third, even though he spent much of it on his back. That said, Vettori’s pressure and wrestling definitely earned him at least one round on the scorecards.

It really looked like Adesanya was going to run away with the fight in round two, so props to Vettori for keeping it competitive in the third. When you finish strong like that, I can understand why Vettori might have retroactively given himself the first in his head, but I just think Adesanya’s striking advantage was too pronounced through the first 10 minutes of this one.

Was it a robbery?

Let me just say, I don’t hate Chris Lee’s 29-28 scorecard. I really don’t. I disagree with it, but I don’t hate it.

Vettori was matched up with a superior striker and he did the right thing by staying busy and throwing stuff out there. He actually attempted more total strikes in the first round, which may have fooled Lee in the moment. With the benefit of replay, it’s a much clearer round for Adesanya.

But even without the benefit of replay, two of the judges got it right, in my opinion. The only controversy comes from Lee’s card and Vettori’s revisionist history.

The final verdict

Not a robbery. And let’s hope that no matter what happens on Saturday, this isn’t brought up again.

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