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Marvin Vettori on hyped prospect Israel Adesanya: ‘He’s a little Chihuahua and I’m the bulldog’

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GLENDALE — Marvin Vettori has heard it all from UFC on FOX 29 opponent Israel Adesanya in advance of April 14. And he’s ready to shut the brash kickboxer’s mouth.

“He’s a little Chihuahua and I’m the bulldog, man,” Vettori told MMA Fighting on Thursday at UFC on FOX 29 media day. “So I’m just going to eat him.”

Vettori, 24, meets Adesanya in a main-card showdown Saturday night at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz.

It’s a massive opportunity for the Italian middleweight prospect, especially given the hype that surrounds his foe after Adesanya’s stylish knockout of Rob Wilkinson and subsequent callout of the 185-pound division at UFC 221.

For an Octagon debut, it was an impressive showing — one that backed up Adesanya’s credentials as a kickboxing stud who owns over 55 professional wins.

Vettori, though, is an entirely different challenge. “The Italian Dream” is a well-rounded up-and-comer who has already tasted victory twice under the UFC umbrella, and he believes he is striding into UFC on FOX 29 with a much different attitude than Wilkinson did.

“The guy stepped in there already beaten,” Vettori said. “He thought he couldn’t stand with Israel so he gassed himself trying to take him down. Israel kinda defended the takedown, and the guy, by the end of the first round he was done with his cardio and Israel just picked him apart. But it’s not going to happen with an experienced fighter and with a guy like me.

“It’s three fives in there. It’s a war. A fact is that you can’t put me away so you’re going to deal with me for a long time, and I’ll break you to the point where you can’t take me anymore — and he breaks. So he’s dangerous, I’m not going to underrate him. He has a lot of fights in K-1 and he’s fast and precise, but I’m prepared and I’m ready to fight.

“I stand with Fabricio Werdum day in, day out,” Vettori added, “with a guy trying to knee your face every second of the round, and he’s a heavyweight. I can’t be scared of a guy like this. I’m really confident and excited for this fight and I can’t wait for that.”

Vettori admitted he finds some of Adesanya’s antics funny, but is nonetheless confident that Adesanya talked himself into a spot right now “where he’s f*cked.”

A main-card opportunity on FOX is a gigantic leap for a prospect making their second UFC fight, and it’s clear the promotion has targeted Adesanya as a potential star in the making. But after sparring with multiple decorated kickboxers who have their own unique styles, such as Bellator’s Raymond Daniels, Vettori expects to give Adesanya a rude awakening regarding the nuances of what it means to be a mixed martial arts fighter.

“I’m going to beat him up to the point where he can’t take it any more,” Vettori said. “He’ll get a little sloppy, and then we’ll see what happens. He has so many holes, I think, in the ground game. But again, he’s very good at the striking game, but ... he wasn’t like a top, top, top fighter in K-1 either. Honestly. And that’s a fact.

“So, I mean, he’s dangerous, but it’s nothing like, ‘Oh man, you can’t stand with this guy. He’s going to throw like [energy balls] or something that is going to knock you out from like 10 meters away.’ Because honestly, some guys think like that. And I’m not buying this sh*t.

“MMA striking is not K-1. It’s different.”

As for the gameplan on Saturday night, Vettori is keeping things simple.

“Just dominate him,” Vettori said. “Dominate him. Just make him look like, ‘Oh sh*t, that guy, I thought he was good but actually he’s not.’”