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Max Holloway vs Dustin Poirier - Poirier wins via unanimous decision
4:40pm - Wow, absolutely fantastic performance from Adesanya to produce a big fifth round when it mattered the most.
Israel Adesanya vs Kelvin Gastelum - Adesanya wins via unanimous decision
Round five - This one's going to be the decider! Gastelum quickly out of the gates again, throwing plenty of shots but not a whole lot landing.Adesanya replies with clean shots but Gastelum's chin hanging in there. Huge left for Adesanya! The two scramble on the ground for position, Adesanya threatens with the triangle but can't quite lock it up. Adesanya pouring on the shots now, volume with accuracy. Gastelum's chin is unreal. Huge right drops Gastelum! Adesanya swoops with the elbows, gastelum stands, Adeanya sits hin down again. This is madness. Ground and pound with the elbows, referee inches away from stopping it but the hooter sounds. Incredible fight, Adesanya should have this.
Round four - Into the championship rounds we go! Gastelum icking up the pace again now, luunges for the clinch but Adesanya brushes it off. Stinging knee to the body from Adesanya. The Kiwi connects with the straight right again, ducks and lands a left. Gastelum moves in for the clinch again after missing wth the looping left, Adesanya out of danger. Adesanya cut above the right eye, stands and trades some lancing shots in the pocket and the crowd loves it. Gastelum with the big left and Adesanya wobbles, staggers back to the fence. Adesanya looked in trouble but Gastelum shoots for the takedown instead. Adesanya wearing the damage on his face now. Tjhat's a round for Gastelum.
Round three - Adesanya weighty inside leg kick to the southpaw Gastelum to start. Momentum looks to be starting to swing the Kiwi's way. Knee in the clinch lands, moves back out of range and follows with a body kick. Adesanya finding his rhythm now, varying his shots beautifully, clean and accurate strikes. Using his reach advantage to great effect. Gastelum gets the takedown but Adesanya is immediately on his haunches, back to his feet and out of harm's way. That's another round for Adesanya.
Round two - Adesanya's corner calls for more body kicks, and he responds with a clean right kick to open the round. Adesanya lunges and lands a straight right to the gut, Gastelum replies with a power right jab that's right on the button. Gastelum effectively closing the distance here, forcing the pace and keeping the pressure on. Big right hand from Adesanya! Gastelum goes down, Adesanya pounces but Gastelum works his way back to his feet. Adesanya on the front foot now, Gastelum backs up and he's eating shots from all angles. Nasty elbow from Adesanya and gastelum wobbles. Gastelum shoots for his first takedown and Adesanya easily stuffs it. Round two in the bag for the Kiwi.
Round one - Gastlum presses early and Adesanya circles away, the height and reach difference is glaring. Straight left lands, follows with a heavy leg kick. Gastelum reaches with the left hook and partially lands. Gastelum counters the left kick with another hook and Adesanya loses his balance moving backwards, finds his feet and spins out of danger. Gastelum very aggressive, throwing with plenty of heat but Adesanya using his head movement to evade... just. Adesanya tentative, throws the one-two, finds his mark. Gastelum's counters, grazes Adesanya. Replay shows the earlier stumble was a clean knockdown for the American. You have to give round one to Gastelum.
3:53pm - Adesanya surprisingly subdued during Bruce Buffer's introduction. referee Godard delivers his instructions, the fighters touch gloves, and we are on...
3:49pm - In comes the Mexican American Gastelum, sprinting to the centre to the strains of Mariachi music. Make no mistake, this man is always game and a big test for the Kiwi.
3:46pm - Adesanya first to enter the Octagon, as composed as ever. Just another day in the fight game for the veteran, only this time there's a title (of sorts) on the line.
3:45pm - Intro packages underway. Fizzing? Fizzing.
3:37pm - First, a moment to acknowledge a middleweight great, as Rich Franklin is named as the latest inductee to the UFC Hall of Fame. Well deserved.
3:35pm - Here we go people, Adesanya's bid for the belt is up next. Octagon entrance imminent.
Khalil Rountree vs Eyrl Anders - Rountree wins via unanimous decision
Round three - The doctor is in the Octagon to check on Anders. Gives him the all clear to continue. Credit to the heart of the man, but yeesh. The leg kick diet is back in effect, Rountree tagging him at will now, Anders just hanging in there. Great courage from Anders, but this will end in a hugely lopsided decision win for Rountree.
Round two - Huge left drops Anders early, and Rountree just stands over him and hammers down leg kicks as Anders turtles. lets Anders back to his feet then immeidately sits him back down with another cracking left. Anders has no answers for this onslaught. Anders can barely stand, and bang - down he goes again off the back of a huge right hook. Referee was inches away from stopping it there, think he probably should have. And another one! Anders on his back again for the fourth time this round. Anders somehow survives the round, his coach seriously needs to consider throwing the towel here. I'm calling that a 10-7 round for Rountree.
Round one - Rountree spry on the feet to start, going full Muay Thai - stance, hands, strikes and all. Getting off some lightning inside leg kicks as well, Anders looks flustered early. Rountree showing the benefits of his move to Thailand, so crisp on the feet. Rountree is devouring Anders' lead leg, that's not going to feel great tomorrow morning - as red as beetroot as the round ends, a big one for Rountree.
3:10pm - Okay, I'm pretty confident in saying this fight will not go the distance. Someone switch on the night light, one of these heavyweights is going to sleep.
3:05pm - Jouban is livid after hearing Bruce Buffer read that decision out, but it's pretty tough to argue with that one given his overall lack of activity.
Alan Jouban vs Dwight Grant - Dwight Grant wins via split decision
Round three - Wrestling time for Jouban? Grant catches him with a stiff uppercut. Jouban needs to start throwing some offense, he's clearly far too concerned with the Grant's power striking. Eek, Grant takes one to the Horaces. He'll need some time to recover from that one. The round and (somewhat mercifully) the fight whimpers to a close. Grant probably won, maybe.
Round two - Grant hurls his body into some looping, heavy punches to open. the man is wild on the feet, some huge openings for Jouban if he can find the counter. Tough for Jouban to find his timing, seems to be struggling with Grant's unorthodox stand-up. A lot of stick and move here but there isn't much landing. I'd call that two in the bag for Grant, but this is highly uneventful.
Round one - One straight left and Jouban immediately shoots for the takedown, very surprising. Grant tags him with a heavy right, guy is throwing heat on every shot. Grant having some success with the leg kicks against the southpaw Jouban. Grant with the left hook over the top, grazes Jouban's head. Tight opening round, both fighters cautious. Grant likely edged it.
2:41pm - Ah jeez, now he's rapping along to it while the cutman preps him. Stop it, Alan.
2:39pm - Alan Jouban goes with Coolio's 'Gangsta's Paradise'. Highly questionable choice from the UFC's most handsome man.
2:38pm - Grant makes his entrance to Biggie's 'Victory'. I'm picking that selection is prophetic.
2:25pm - For those of you wondering what time 'The Last Stylebender' will take the stage, I'm predicting somewhere between 3:30 and 4pm. But don't quote me on that.
Ovince St Preux vs Nikita Krylov - Krylov wins via second-round submission
Round two - Kyrlov with the pressure striking, pushing the pace. St Preux again reverts to the clinch. Krylov reverses position and takes St Preux down, straight into full mount before tranisitioning to the back. Working for the rear-naked choke, can't quite get under the chin.....until he does! St Preux taps and that's an impressive win for the Ukrainian, returning the favour after his submission loss to the Haitian-American back in 2014.
Round one - Krylov gets off some heavy shots early, St Preux replies with a takedown. Krylov defends well, quickly to his feet. Krylov working for the guillotine, adjust and readjusts but eventually St Preux escapes and scores another takedown but again, Krylov straight back to his feet. St Preux takes it to the mat though, advances into full mount, manages just a couple of hammers before Krylov explodes with his hips and gets to his feet. St Preux breathing very heavily already. St Preux's cornerman tells him "you don't get tired", so he should be sweet.
2:15pm - St Preux representing his native Haiti as he makes his entry to The Fugees classic 'Ready or Not'. Somewhere Wyclef is smiling.
2:12pm - The big guns have entered the building. Let the interim title fest commence.
2:05pm - So much investment in the Adesanya fight this week that I almost forgot we have the barn-burner Holloway vs Poirier bout to look forward to. What a treat that one should be.
1:55pm - Let's get amongst it, fight fans! The preliminary card wraps up with a decent back and forth bout between Jalin Turner and Matt Frevola, with Frevola prevailing via unanimous decision.
The pay-per-view portion will begin momentarily, as Ovince St Preux takes on Nikita Krylov. Get settled in, people.
Kia ora and welcome to live coverage from Atalanta as New Zealand’s Israel Adesanya squares off with Kelvin Gastelum in co-main event at UFC 236.
Fight-by-fight coverage will start from around 2pm (NZ time) before we move into commentary of the main card.
In the meantime, check out the video above for a preview of today's showdown.
Ovince St Preux vs Nikita Krylov
Alan Jouban vs Dwight Grant
Erly Anders vs Khalil Rountree Jr
Israel Adesanya vs Kelvin Gastelum
Max Holloway vs Dustin Poirier
Head to head:
Israel Adesanya ($1.54) vs Kelvin Gastelum ($2.41)
Max Holloway ($1.43) vs Dustin Poirier ($2.73)
Israel Adesanya talks aliens, interim world title and Robert Whittaker
By Stephen Foote
Kiwi UFC middleweight Israel Adesanya may be days away from a moment that's been years in the making - but he'll never turn down the chance for a leftfield hypothetical.
So, how would he describe his otherworldly fighting style - predicated on fleet-footedness and laser-like strikes from all eight points - to a life form of another world?
"I'd tell them I'm the overlord of Earth," a grinning Adesanya told Newshub."I have special powers and a special set of skills that can save the universe, and they should take me to their leader, so I can get the f**k up out of here."
But back to Planet Earth, where 'The Last Stylebender' will square off against Kelvin Gastelum for a chance to become the division's interim champion at UFC 236 in Atlanta on Sunday (NZ time).
Perhaps more importantly, victory will guarantee him first crack at champion Robert Whittaker's belt, once the Australian is fully recovered from the hernia surgery that forced him out of his February title defence in Melbourne.
If the undefeated Adesanya does what he's widely favoured to and gets his hand raised in Atlanta, it will be the culmination of a masterplan that he and City Kickboxing cohorts conjured up in the back blocks of Eden Terrace at the start of his pro career.
While consolidating the title against Whittaker would be the pinnacle, this belt represents a huge step for both himself, his teammates and the renaissance of New Zealand combat sports.
"It shows the work that me and my people in Auckland have been putting in. It shows the level of game we bring from our little corner of the world, and we get to display that on the world stage and let them know that 'hey, we're back'."
In 2014, Mark Hunt came up short in his quest to become the first New Zealand UFC champion, falling via TKO to Fabricio Werdum with the interim heavyweight belt on the line. Adesanya intends to go one better this weekend.
"We were on top of the world back in the day in K1 and boxing as well… but now we're back and we've got numbers behind us."
The last 13 months have been a whirlwind for the Nigerian-born Kiwi. From a UFC debut in February 2018 to a pay-per-view main event bout against one of his idols, Brazilian great Anderson Silva, precisely one year later and now a title shot.
Meteoric doesn’t do his rise justice.
Being front and centre on ESPN billboards, hanging out with famous rappers (he'll be "chopping it up" with Wale on Friday), this lifestyle seems to come naturally to Adesanya, who's devised his own mechanism for keeping grounded and deflecting the backlash that fame inevitably inspires.
"They say never drink your own Kool-Aid, but I say f**k that.
"Drink your own Kool-Aid, but don’t get drunk on it. Just sip a little bit and know you're the man, but know you ain't sh*t at the same time.
"I know myself, put it that way – and other people's insecurities that they want to project on me doesn’t even faze me."
Sunday will mark his staggering sixth bout in little more than a year. By UFC standards, it's a busy schedule, but not for a fighter who cut his teeth fighting in the wild east of the China pro fight scene, where he once reeled off 20 fights through a single calendar year.
"I've fought way more than this in the past in other leagues. This is just different, because it's the UFC, and they only have so many shows and a lot of athletes.
"When I'm champion, I'm going to be an active champion."
The 29-year-old has created a new blueprint for stardom, which his colleagues are already looking to replicate.
"You can see other fighters trying to follow suit, claiming they want to be as active as me, because they see the stock rising every time I go up and put it on them."
Next on his conveyor belt of victims comes Gastelum - a hard-hitting wrestler, who's morphed into one of the most technically effective boxers in the middleweight division, if not the entire promotion.
The Mexican-American has been vocal with his intentions of derailing Adesanya's "hype train", dismissing his win over Silva and claiming the Kiwi doesn't deserve his shot at the title.
Adesanya has little regard for such comments. With a mammoth 22cm (8.5in) and 18cm (7in) advantage in reach and height respectively, his path to victory is relatively clear against the fighter he described having a "soft body, big head".
"From the start of the fight, I'm going to go at him - press him with a lot of energy.
"He's never fought a guy with the movement that I have when it comes to footwork. I can moonwalk around him if I want to - and I might."
To counter his striking, Adesanya has no doubt Gastelum will revert to his wrestling and try to bring the fight to the mat, where he's more than willing to exchange and display his lesser-seen ground game.
"He still has to get me to the ground first, then he has a whole plethora of moves he can use, but then he hasn't found out about mine as well."
Gastelum aside, the pot of UFC gold at the end rainbow lies in Australia about August - likely either in Sydney or Brisbane - when Whittaker should be fully recovered and ready to consolidate the two belts.
That bout promises to be a classic Anzac blockbuster and Adesanya has a message for those Kiwis still trying to claim the New Zealand-born, but Australian-bred Whittaker as one of their own.
"Ignore that guy - the dude lives in Australia, he hails from Aussie.
"I have a lot of Aussie fans as well, but he's Australian. Let him be over there and do his own thing.
"I don’t even think he knows what a kumara is anymore."
But of course, first things first - it's all about solving the Gastelum puzzle, getting the strap back to Aotearoa and adding it to the vast array of silverware on the City Kickboxing mantelpiece - the jewel in the crown and the ultimate souvenir.
"Without my team, I'm nothing. I can't do this by myself.
"I'll be in the cage by myself, but just outside, it I'll have my head coach and my wrestling coach, and my other coaches as well. Behind them is a whole whanau of training partners that I have and that I've worked with for years.
"It's not just going to be my belt, it's going to be our belt and I'm bringing that belt home."
If all goes according to that masterplan, he'll be adding another alongside it by the end of the year. He's not quite paid in full.