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.
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 crowd were on their feet to give both fighters a standing ovation for the stunning fight.
Adesanya was just one significant strike off doubling that of Gastelum with the final numbers reading 135 to 68.
Born in Nigeria, ‘The Last Stylebender’ moved to New Zealand when he was 13 and his entire fighting career has been based out of his adopted country.
“I was willing to give it all and leave it all in there.
“I’m the champion, let’s go,” Adesanya said immediately after the fight