The State Farm Arena in Atlanta, GA was home to a great night of fights. The card saw two (T)KOs, two submissions, and nine decisions, including one majority-decision. For the first time in ages, there were two FOTN bonuses awarded, and no POTN bonuses. As outstanding as the co-main and main events were, I am just fine with this decision.
Performances of the Night: None
Fight of the Night: Israel Adesanya vs. Kelvin Gastelum, Dustin Poirier vs. Max Holloway
Israel Adesanya and Kelvin Gastelum put on a fight for the ages, and in my mind, it’s fight of the year thus far. The pace was frenetic and saw both men throwing all manner of kicks and punches. Gastelum wobbled Adesanya early, and Izzy answered with plenty of his own heat, dropping Gastelum in the second, and peppering him with hard shots from seemingly everywhere at once.
Adesanya’s constant pressure saw him control rounds two and three, but round four was a turning point for Gastelum and he was giving as good as he got. A head kick stumbled Adesanya, but Kelvin inexplicably decided that while Izzy was hurt, he should level change for a takedown. That would prove foolhardy, and by the end of the round, Adesanya was recovered and blasted Kelvin with his own head kick.
Round five is also my frontrunner for round of the year, bar none. They went hell for leather, and both men were staggered during this last five minutes. There was an incredible scramble stemming from a standing guillotine that led to a triangle attempt from Adesanya. Gastelum survived it. Izzy teed off on Kelvin, but it wasn’t until the last minute or so that Gastelum finally succumbed to the barrage and went down. Wait! He’s back up! More punishment and down goes Gastelum again. Wait! He’s back up again! Kelvin is trying to regain his footing but gets dropped again, and the fight ends with Adesanya blasting him all the way to the buzzer.
Israel Adesanya gets the win and the interim middleweight belt, both men get the adoration of bloodthirsty fight fans, and they both go home with $50,000 bonuses.
If you’re wondering how you follow up a fight as great as the co-main event, you need look no further than the headliner. Dustin Poirier and Max Holloway put on one hell of a scrap with the theme being “There Will Be Blood.” The fight was action-packed from the start, with Poirier staggering Holloway twice in the first stanza, and Max smiling through it and landing some heaters of his own.
Rounds two and three saw Holloway tearing into Poirier’s body and landing some good combinations, but it was clear that Dustin’s power was the key factor, staggering Max towards the end of the third.
Round four was a good one for Holloway, even though he ate a knee that busted open his forehead, unleashing a geyser that spewed blood for the remainder of the fight. Max had a flurry in there that seemed to tire out Poirier, then a big elbow landed, and Dustin looked hurt for the first time in the fight.
Round five was more of the same hellacious back-and-forth action, with both men swinging for the fences until the very end. If Adesanya-Gastelum hadn’t been on right before, this slobberknocker would’ve gotten all the shine. Dustin Poirier gets the win, the interim lightweight belt and both men get $50,000 bonuses.