By Christopher Reive in Atlanta
Kiwi UFC star Israel Adesanya will meet American Kelvin Gastelum in the octagon at UFC 236 in Atlanta on Sunday to battle for the interim middleweight title. Here's what you need to know before they throw down.
What's an interim title?
It's a term often seen in the UFC when there's a belt on the line. An interim title is a placeholder for when the reigning champion is unable to fight for an extended period of time. In order to keep the division moving along, an interim title fight between two top contenders is booked. As well as winning a belt, the victor books a date with the reigning champion for the title of undisputed champion.
Why are Adesanya and Gastelum fighting for an interim title?
Booking this fight takes out two birds with one stone for the UFC. Gastelum was scheduled to challenge for the middleweight title against Australian champion Robert Whittaker in Melbourne in February. However, Whittaker was force to withdraw the morning of the bout after being rushed to hospital with a hernia. On the same card, Adesanya beat Brazilian legend Anderson Silva in a No 1 contender's match.
Booking an interim bout while Whittaker works towards his return later this year allows the UFC to honour both title shots without making one of the athletes wait.
When is this happening?
The main card at UFC 236 begins at 2pm on Sunday April 14, with Adesanya and Gastelum expected it take to the cage around 3:30pm in the co-main event. Max Holloway and Dustin Porier will compete for the interim lightweight title in the main event.
How do the fighters match up?
Stylistically it is an interesting fight. Adesanya has announced himself as one of the elite strikers in the UFC since his debut in February last year, and will have a comfortable range and height advantage against Gastelum. The American is a tough assignment though, with not only a good boxing game but a reliable grappling skillset as well. Expect the two to trade shots from their feet early on, but don't be surprised if you see Gastelum shoot in for a take down if he can't overcome the range differential in the striking exchanges.
The road to the title - each fighter's last four results
Adesanya (16-0 overall professional MMA record)
- beat Anderson Silva via decision (February 2019)
- beat Derek Brunson via knock out (November 2018)
- beat Brad Tavares via decision (July 2018)
- beat Marvin Vettori via decision (April 2018)
Gastelum (15-3 with 1 no contest)
- beat Ronaldo Souza via decision (May 2018)
- beat Michael Bisping via knock out (November 2017)
- lost to Chris Weidman via submission (July 2017)
- No contest against Vitor Belfort (March 2017)
Tale of the tape
Weight: 83kg (183 pounds)
Wins by KO: 13
Wins by decision: 3
Weight: 83.4kg (184 pounds)
Wins by KO: 6
Wins by submission: 4
Wins by decision: 5
How to watch
The UFC 236 main card can be purchased on Sky Arena for $34.95. The preliminary bouts are aired live on ESPN before the event goes to the pay-per-view card. The Herald will be live blogging Adesanya's fight.
Main card bouts
Max Holloway v Dustin Porier for the interim lightweight title
Israel Adesanya v Kelvin Gastelum for the interim middleweight title
Light heavyweight bout:
Eryk Anders v Khalil Rountree Jr.
Alan Jouban v Dwight Grant
Light heavyweight bout:
Ovince Saint Preux v Nikita Krylov