It was a thrilling fight at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta that had everyone on the edge of their seats as both fighters left each other bloodied and battered.
It was a show of skill, talent and toughness from the two fighters but it was Adesanya who was announced as the winner via unanimous decision (48-46, 48-46, 48-46) to win an interim championship belt.
The fight was intense from the first round but it was Gastelum who started the fiercer as he put Adesanya in defense mode.
Adesanya got Gastelum with a counter right punch that knocked down the American. Adesanya’s intensity increased from that moment and he punched with much more consistency.
Gastelum, however, wasn’t ready to give up yet and he returned fired up in round three although he couldn’t land a punch on Adesanya.
In the fourth round, he continued with his intensity and knocked out Adesanya in the final minutes of that round.
In round five, Gastelum attacked Adesanya more, looking for that takedown but the Nigerian countered smartly and with much agility.
In the final minutes of round five, it was Adesanya who attacked Gastelum with enthusiasm and he eventually dropped the American fighter with an elbow and he followed up with a ground-and-punch.
Gastelum wasn’t out but at the end of the fifth round, Adesanya was declared the winner to remain undefeated in his professional career.
17-0 as professional and 6-0 in the UFC while this was just the second loss for Gastelum (15-4, 1 NC) since moving up the middleweight division.
“I was willing to die. We’ve lost teammates to this game,” Adesanya said post-fight.
“They’re not with us anymore. ... But I knew I was willing to give it all and to leave it all in there.”
The 29-year-old is now tipped to face undisputed champion Robert Whittaker in his next fight.
Adesanya was born in Lagos but moved to New Zealand with his parents. Although he left Nigeria at the age of 11, the now 29-year-old is very much in touch with his Nigerian roots.
He has ‘Broken Native’ tattooed across his chest coupled with a large map of Africa which serve as a reminder of his cultural heritage.
“I’ve got Africa stamped on my chest, and I’ve outlined Nigeria because that’s my bloodline,” he said in 2018.
With the UFC interim middleweight champion belt, Adesanya is now the second African-born champion in UFC history.
The first is another Nigerian-born fighter Kamara Usman who is the current UFC welterweight champion.