The UFC roster has always had some of the most gifted athletes in the world. In the realm of combat sports, fans arguably consider MMA fighters to be some of the toughest athletes. They have to train in multiple disciplines while working on their strength and conditioning. However, some fighters are more dynamic than others. Nigerian-born Kiwi Israel Adesanya is one of them.
As flamboyant as they come, ‘The Last Stylebender‘ came into the limelight with his skillset and flashy persona. Israel has also attracted criticism while on his climb up the middleweight mountain. However, the 33-year-old knows how to showcase an elite performance once the Octagon door closes.
But, as the old saying goes, it takes two to tango. Kelvin Gastelum forced Adesanya to show his best version during their Octagon outing. The two locked horns in their prime during the co-main event of UFC 236. The highly touted contest would eventually become a top candidate for Fight of The Year in 2019.
The duo went to war in a 25-minute grueling battle in their quest to win the interim middleweight title. The April 13 bout became an instant classic among the fans. Each opponent had their moment over the course of 5 rounds. However, ‘Izzy’ secured a unanimous decision over the Mexican-American.
It was during this event that Adesanya spoke his famous lines, “I’m prepared to die” just before the 5th round began. Upon reflecting back on that moment, Gastelum once shared, “It’s crazy to get a guy to go to that point where he says, what did he say? That’s crazy that he went to that dimension”
Kelvin Gastelum’s mistake cost him the fight against Israel Adesanya
Every athlete’s life comes to a point where they are dragged into the deep waters to prove their greatness. The bout between Kelvin Gastelum and Israel Adesanya was exactly what the duo needed as a defining moment in their respective careers. Their quest for the interim middleweight title was one for the ages. In a vicious back-and-forth affair, Kelvin and Adesanya inflicted damage on one another like never before.
However, the 4th round was what could have potentially changed the course of the middleweight division. Kelvin connected flush with a left high kick, resulting in Israel wobbling. Gastelum charged forward to capitalize on a potentially fight-winning sequence. However, Izzy avoided the follow-up shots before resting against the fence. Kelvin shot for a takedown, but, Izzy used this time to recover and retreated before the round ended.
The 5th round saw a tired Gastelum against an energetic Izzy. The Nigerian native peppered Kelvin with the leftover shots he had left in his tank. Eventually, Izzy dropped the 31-year-old to the canvas before finishing the round with a barrage of punches on Kelvin.
It will always be an anomaly to the fans regarding Kelvin’s decision to go for a takedown. Had the 31-year-old chosen to smother a recovering Izzy with his offense, it would have been Gastelum holding the interim title, or so the fans predict retrospectively. However, Israel’s luck favored him more that night and the Kiwi went on to rule the division for almost the next 4 years.