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Israel Adesanya explains moment where he saw Marvin Vettori’s ‘soul leave his eyes’ during UFC 263 title defense

Israel Adesanya bounced back from his first pro MMA loss with a dominant title defense to close the show at UFC 263, and believes he took a piece of his rival with him in the process.

“The Last Stylebender” earned a lopsided unanimous decision against Marvin Vettori to retain his middleweight title in the main event of Saturday night’s PPV card in Glendale, Ariz. It was the second meeting between the two fighters with Adesanya now holding victories in both fights, although Saturday’s was much more emphatic.

While Adesanya was in unique territory entering a title defense coming off of a loss — a unanimous decision defeat against light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz at UFC 259 in March — fans were wondering if Vettori could implement a similar game plan to that of Blachowicz.

Vettori did everything he could to get the fight to the mat, even taking the champion’s back at one point. For Adesanya, that began a sequence that left the most lasting impression on him.

“There was a point — my favorite bit of the fight, actually — when he thought he had a rear-naked choke on me and he probably got excited like, ‘Yes, this is it, my moment, ahhh,’” Adesanya said at the UFC 263 post-fight press conference. “I wasn’t even bothered, I wasn’t threatened. I turned it [over] on him and I put my hand on his neck, you know, that X-rated sh*t when you choke someone and you look them in the eyes. I swear to god, I saw his soul leave his eyes.

“I said to him, ‘You’re scared, aren’t you?’ I said that to him, find the tape. I felt very powerful in that moment taking his soul away. But he’s tough, I’ll give him that. He’s tough, but that moment for me was very powerful because I took hope away from him.”

Following the split decision loss to Adesanya at UFC on FOX 29 in April 2018, Vettori won five straight to earn the second chance he’s wanted since, along with his first crack at championship gold. The heat between Adesanya and Vettori continued to escalate throughout fight week, and even after the fight when the City Kickboxing standout said that Vettori believed he won the fight.

In the end, as much as he dislikes Vettori, Adesanya was willing to give credit where it was due despite a one-sided victory.

“I wanted to punch him in the face more,” Adesanya stated. “Credit to him and his boxing coach. I’ll say they improved their boxing a bit so I think they thought that would be enough, but it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough.”

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