UFC 286 Clash: Vettori Vs. Dolidze!

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UFC 286 Clash: Vettori Vs. Dolidze!

Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight veterans Marvin Vettori and Roman Dolidze will go to war this weekend (Sat., March 18, 2023) at UFC 286 inside The O2 in London, England.

It’s going to be very interesting to see how Vettori responds to his most recent performance, a one-sided loss to Robert Whittaker. “The Italian Dream” has lost fights previously, but he’s never been picked apart and battered previously. He’s always been able to believe that he deserved the nod — even when no one else agreed — but there’s no such argument to be made here. He’ll be defending his Top 5 spot opposite a streaking finisher in Dolidze. The Georgian talent has won four straight, stopping his last three opponents via strikes and showing off an incredible grappling game in the process. He’s a unique contender, and this is a massive opportunity for him.

Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:

Marvin Vettori

Record: 18-6-1
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), Robert Whittaker (UFC Paris), Antonio Carlos Junior (UFC 207)
Keys to Victory: Vettori is a great example of a well-rounded fighter with excellent physical attributes. He’s not the most technical kickboxer nor the most powerful, his jiu-jitsu is not world-class, and his wrestling game is not particularly complex. Still, he’s very good at all of those things, which combined with a great gas tank and iron chin has produced a former title challenger.

I see no reason Vettori should engage Dolidze on the canvas here. Hermansson is arguably the superior submission grappler to Vettori, and he still found himself trapped in Dolidze’s excellent submission chain from his back, which ultimately cost him a fight that he was winning on the feet.

Vettori should avoid repeating that mistake.

He’s the better striker between the two, more consistent in his ability to put together combinations and manage distance. He’s got some good pop in his punches, and even if Dolidze does manage to land a few hard ones, Vettori has never had an issue with eating big shots and firing back.

Sprawl-and-brawl is the strategy here, and Vettori would be wise not to take any diversions from that path.

Roman Dolidze

Record: 12-1
Key Wins: Jack Hermansson (UFC Orlando), Phil Hawes (UFC Vegas 63), Kyle Daukaus (UFC Austin), Laureano Staropoli (UFC Vegas 28)
Key Losses: Trevin Giles (UFC Vegas 22)
Keys to Victory: I don’t know that there are many fighters like Dolidze on UFC’s roster. It’s a short sample size, but his last two fights have demonstrated perhaps the best bottom game in UFC, one that has quickly torn knees and resulted in knockout stoppages. On the feet, his game doesn’t feel super cohesive, but he’s aggressive and powerful enough to make it work more often than not.

Somehow, Dolidze has to get this one to the canvas. Obviously, it would be great if he could just slip a left hand and take down Vettori. It’s worth a shot! That said, Vettori is historically tough to take down, and Dolidze has yet to show the level of offensive wrestling to really overcome that barrier.

Instead, Dolidze is likely going to have to land something big to change the dynamic. Pressuring Vettori seems like a good strategy, as the Italian athlete likes to be the man controlling the pace. If Dolidze can instead walk him down and hurl heavy punches his direction, the odds of Vettori getting uncomfortable and willingly engaging him in grappling go up considerably.

Bottom Line

Vettori’s spot in the Top 5 is on the line.

Let’s be honest: Vettori was never going to get a third shot at Adesanya. Now that Alex Pereira is champion, however, there is a much more real path to gold for Vettori. The Whittaker loss complicates matters, but it’s important to remember that Vettori is still just 29 years old. He’s still young in his prime, so there’s time for the right situation to develop.

Until then, he just has to stay in the mix by winning fights like this.

Conversely, 34-year-old Dolidze’s situation is more urgent. He’s got momentum already and has really developed his game in the last couple years, but this really feels like a make-or-break run. His style relies on sudden moments, meaning it’s not easy to put together win streaks, because sometimes they just don’t happen (as in the Trevin Giles fight). He’s currently just one or two more wins away from a title fight, and his opportunistic finishing ability makes him a very interesting challenger.

At UFC 286, Marvin Vettori and Roman Dolidze will open the main card. Which man earns the victory?

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 286 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard on ESPN2/ESPN+ at 3 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 286: “Edwards vs. Usman 3” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.