ATLANTA (AP) — Israel Adesanya couldn’t score a knockout but he earned the UFC interim middleweight title with his domination of Kelvin Gastelum in the fifth and final round on Saturday night.
Adesanya (17-0) wore the gold championship belt immediately after the unanimous decision was announced.
In the final main card fight of UFC 236, Max Holloway was to face Dustin Poirier for the interim lightweight title.
Gastelum (15-4) appeared to have Adesanya in trouble at times. Adesanya’s corner treated a cut under his right eye after the fourth round, but the rising star from New Zealand had a decisive finish in the fifth, when Gastelum was bloodied for the first time and knocked down three times.
Gastelum was obviously groggy after being floored for the second time, and he quickly went down again. Just when it appeared the fight might be stopped, Gastelum was saved by the final bell.
Adesanya landed 135 strikes, almost twice Gastelum’s total of 68.
The near-capacity crowd at State Farm Arena included Shaquille O’Neal.