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Nigeria’s Israel Adesanya wins UFC interim middleweight belt in spectacular fight

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Nigeria’s Israel Adesanya wins UFC interim middleweight belt in spectacular fight

Israel Adesanya has beaten Kelvin Gastelum by unanimous decision to lift the UFC middleweight interim belt in a fight of the year contender.

The 29-year-old was on the brink of stopping Gastelum in the final seconds of the fight in the co-main event of UFC 236 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta.

The 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. Whittaker took to Twitter immediately after Adesanya’s win to congratulate him on the victory and signed off with: “See you soon”.

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Whittaker was born in New Zealand but moved to Australia as a young child.

Adesanya becomes the first New Zealand based fighter to win a UFC belt.

At the end of the five rounds, all three judges scored the fight – that was closer than many expected – 48-46 in favour of Adesanya. Both fighters finished the bout with blood smeared faces.

The fight lasted 25 minutes for Adesanya’s 17th win without a loss in the UFC.

“I was ready for war,” said Adesanya, also known as the Last Stylebender.

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“I was willing to leave it all and give it all.”

Although Adesanya, 29, scored the first hard kick to the midsection in the first round of the five-rounder, Gastelum showed gut to knock him to the fence with a punch to the head in the opening.

Gastelum also rocked him with a kick to the head in the third round.

But Adesanya, already spotting a cut, bounced back with an inspired finishing that saw him knock bloodied Gastelum down three times in the last round.

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“I kept on saying in my mother tongue Yoruba, ‘Aya bi ekun’ ’cause I have got a tattoo of Nigeria [map] with a lion on my chest.”

Adesanya is the second Nigerian to emerge champion in the UFC in recent weeks.

In March, Kamaru Usman became first African-born fighter to win a UFC title after pummelling Tyron Woodley in a one-sided bout at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

The 31-year-old Usman, a Nigerian-born Texan and former NCAA Division II wrestler, broke into the UFC in 2015 on its long-running competition reality show.

 

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