Nigerian-born fighter Israel Adesanya defeated Kelvin Gastelum in the main event of the UFC 236 to claim the UFC interim middleweight title on Sunday morning.
Adesanya was announced the winner via unanimous decision in an epic five-round fight that would go down as a classic. Adesanya repeatedly dropped a bloody Gastelum late in a savage Round 5 en route to a unanimous decision (48-46, 48-46, 48-46) following a see-saw battle that left the State Farm Arena crowd in hysterics on its feet.
The 29-year-old moves his undefeated record to 17-0 – including a staggering six consecutive UFC wins in just 14 months – and further legitimises his mantle as one of the sport’s brightest stars.
Relatively untested in his UFC tenure to this point, Adesanya was forced to reach deep against Gastelum, displaying an exceptional level of fortitude in overcoming some early adversity to produce a stellar performance in the pivotal final round.
Interim titles are awarded when the original champion is unable to compete for a long period of time. It prevents the top end of a division from stalling and once the original champion is able to return, they are generally required to fight the interim titleholder in a unification bout.
The latest victory means Adesanya remains unbeaten in the UFC with a 6-0 record and sets up a dream trans-Tasman unification bout with reigning middleweight champion, Robert Whittaker.
Born in Nigeria, ‘The Last Stylebender’ as Adesanya is fondly referred to moved to New Zealand when he was 13. His entire fighting career has been based out of his adopted country.
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