‘Fight of the year’: Israel Adesanya claims UFC gold in instant classic with Kelvin Gastelum

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‘The Last Stylebender’ Israel Adesanya claimed interim UFC gold barely a year after joining the promotion, outpointing Kelvin Gastelum after a five-round ‘Fight of the Year’ candidate at UFC 236.

There is a new superstar in town. Israel Adesanya proved that the considerable hype in the New Zealand-based, Nigerian-born striker is well and truly justified as he was awarded the unanimous decision on the scorecards after five furious rounds in Atlanta. 

But, much like most classic fights, he didn’t get there without overcoming some of his own adversity. A cagey first round was punctuated with Gastelum becoming the first fighter to drop Adesanya in the UFC, as the Kiwi – who was a picture of calmness on his way to the cage – started the slower of the two. 

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However, the favor was very much returned in the second when Adesanya connected with Gastelum’s chin from distance sending the American crumbling to the canvas. 

By the middle rounds, the difference in the respective striking acumen was beginning to show. Adesanya was showing excellent movement and attacking with a varied array of different strikes while Gastelum, for the most part, opted to eat them while attempting to engineer a concussive left hook – the same punch he used to effectively end Michael Bisping’s fight career in late 2017.

The fourth round was the most difficult of Adesanya’s mixed martial arts career. Gastelum, who had been attacking with leg kicks and body punches at length, went upstairs with a high kick which landed behind Adesanya’s right ear robbing him of his equilibrium. Just when it appeared as if the New Zealander may be bested at his own game, Gastelum went for a questionable takedown against the fence which allowed time for Adesanya to regain composure.

In the fifth, a bloodied and swollen Adesanya proved why he is of championship metal, dropping an exhausted Gastelum on numerous occasions and appearing close to finishing the fight with both a triangle and, separately, strikes on the ground. 

Referee Marc Goddard allowed Gastelum the opportunity to finish the fight and, after what was a 10-8 round in favor of the New Zealander, Adesanya was awarded the win – and a shiny gold belt – by a unanimous score of 48-46.

Next up? A mouthwatering title unification bout with Robert Whittaker.


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