The UFC interim middleweight title will be up for grabs later this spring, and I’ll give my thoughts on the UFC’s latest title fight announcement in today’s MMA odds and ends.
Israel Adesanya vs. Kelvin Gastelum, UFC 236
With UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker injured, the UFC has decided to create an interim belt and it will be on the line in the main event at UFC 236, which is set for April 13 at a yet-to-be-determined location. In the blue corner will be Israel Adesanya, fresh off his win over Anderson Silva at UFC 234, while in the red corner will be Kelvin Gastelum, who had his fight against Whittaker taken away at the last second the day of UFC 234.
The news of Adesanya vs. Gastelum was first reported by ESPN’s Brett Okamoto. No location was announced, but rumors on Twitter have the event pegged for Atlanta, Georgia, though that’s far from confirmed at this point.
Creating an interim title will be controversial for some considering what happened last year with Colby Covington and Tony Ferguson winning interim belts and then not getting shots at the undisputed titles, but it was a necessity due to Whittaker having not fought since last July against Yoel Romero. The UFC needed to keep the middleweight division moving along in his absence, so as far as this writer’s opinion is concerned, an interim title at 185lbs was absolutely the right decision by UFC president Dana White and co.
As far as the matchup itself goes, the Adesanya vs. Gasltelum fight on paper looks like it has the potential to be a tremendous fight. Adesanya (16-0) is coming off of a decision win over the legend Silva and overall is 5-0 in the Octagon with other notable victories over Brad Tavares and Derek Brunson. At age 29, Adesanya is smack dab in his prime and shows improvements almost every time we see him fight. Sure, the Silva fight wasn’t his best performance, but he still got his hand raised, took no damage in the process, and the win ended up earning him a title shot. Gastelum (15-3, 1 NC) is 10-3, 1 NC overall in the UFC and he has a 4-1, 1 NC record as a middleweight. Gastelum is coming off of back-to-back wins over Michael Bisping and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and at age 27 he’s right in his prime as well. Both Adesanya and Gastelum are two of the top middleweights on the planet right now, and considering the striking acumen of both men, this has the potential to be a firefight.
As far as the odds go, they haven’t been released yet, but I’d expect the offshore sportsbooks to offer something up for the fight soon. If I had to guess, Adesanya will be the betting favorite, though Gastelum absolutely will be a live dog in this fight due to his knockout power. It will be interesting to see what other fights are going to be added to UFC 236 in the coming weeks, but this interim title fight between Adesanya and Gastelum is a great start to the card’s bookings.