Israel Adesanya claims UFC interim middleweight title with victory over Kelvin Gastelum

Kiwi-Nigerian fighter Israel Adesanya has claimed the UFC's interim middleweight title, winning by decision against American opponent Kelvin Gastelum in Atlanta.

Israel Adesanya connects a right elbow to Kelvin Gastelum Source: Getty

With the middleweight title holder, Kiwi-born Australian Robert Whittaker, out of action, Adesanya and Gastelum went toe-to-toe in the octagon for the UFC's interim title.

In a tentative first round, Adesanya looked to use his reach advantage, striking with low kicks to Gastelum's shin and attempting to stay out of range from the American's stronger grappling game.

Gastelum though, connected with a left-right combo on Adesanya, leaving the Kiwi-Nigerian in a spot of trouble midway through the first round.

Adesanya used his agility to get out of trouble before landing some blows of his own. The Kiwi-Nigerian saw out the first round unscathed, Gastelum taking honours first up.

The second round saw Adesanya coming out as the aggressor, landing two kicks to the body in the opening moments, before another took his tally to three strikes within the first 30 seconds.

A huge right hand from Adesanya floored Gastelum, as the Kiwi-Nigerian started to assert himself.

Gastelum tried to get himself on the front foot, playing right into Adesanya's hands, landing another series of blows to the end the second round, most notably with an elbow to the face.

The pair exchanged strikes in a cagey third round, before Adesanya again landed a blow to Gastelum's head, this time with a knee.

Gastelum had Kiwi fans nervous with a takedown in the third, only for Adesanya to somehow find his way back to his feet, nullifying the American's wrestling strength and taking the fight into the fourth round.

Gastelum again looked to force the pace to start the fourth round, Adesanya weathering the storm before countering with a knee to the body.

A blow to Adesanya's right eye left him bleeding, stunning the Kiwi. Adesanya again fought back though, landing a combination in the final 30 seconds of the fourth round.

With the judges scorecards seemingly at 2-2 going into the final round, both fighters began the fifth looking for the win, and the interim title.

A volley of fists to Gastelum's head saw Adesanya test his opponent to begin the final round. Adesanya attempted a triangle, only for Gastelum to somehow get back to his feet and continue the fight.

Another right fist from Adesanya floored Gastelum with just over a minute to go, but the American would again somehow get back to his feet, before another knockdown saw the Kiwi smell blood.

However, the final bell sounded before Adesanya could finish the job, leaving the result in the hands of the judges.

The judges all sided with the Kiwi, awarding Adesanya the title by unanimous decision.

The result sees Adesanya's professional record sit at 17 wins from 17 fights, unbeaten in his six UFC bouts.