By the time 2009 rolled around, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) had already pillaged the ranks of PRIDE FC, taking advantage of a talent-rich roster that included Dan Henderson, Quinton Jackson, Mauricio Rua and Wanderlei Silva, among others. If a top International fighter was competing, chances are they were doing it inside the Octagon.
Fedor Emelianenko had escaped the clutches of UFC President Dana White, failing to be wooed by the checkbook of Lorenzo Fertitta, as well as the chance to compete against the world's best mixed martial artists. But when you win 27 fights in a row and beat two former UFC champs in the process, you can pretty much do whatever the hell you want.
That includes signing with Strikeforce.
But "The Last Emperor" wasn't going alone. Instead, the Stary Oskol-native had recruited friend and fellow M-1 Global star Gegard Mousasi to join him. "The Dreamcatcher," like Emelianenko, had run roughshod over the best of the best, compiling a 25-2-1 record with a staggering 22 finishes (not bad for a guy who didn't train).
And the Armenian was as well rounded as they came, submitting the strikers and knocking out the grapplers.
His proven track record, complemented by his DREAM middleweight title, was enough to earn him a title shot against rugged UFC veteran Renato Sobral in a fight for the Brazilian's Strikeforce light heavyweight championship at the "Carano vs. Cyborg" Showtime event on Aug. 15, 2009, in San Jose, California.
Here's how it all went down.
A touch of gloves opens the first frame and both fighters fire off inside leg kicks that cancel each other out. Sobral pops a jab and misses with a follow-up side kick. Mousasi circles left and goes high with his leg, but "Babalu" catches it and works for a trip.
"The Dreamcatcher" maintains his balance, forcing the Brazilian to re-adjust and clinch.
Mousasi gets underhooks, dumps his foe on the canvas and quickly assumes side control. Sobral squirms, but his movement gives the Armenian enough momentum to press him against the cage, limiting mobility. A barrage of punches follows, landing fast and flush. Just 60 seconds into the fight, referee John McCarthy is forced to intervene.
"He is the real deal," exclaims cageside color commentator Frank Shamrock. "Mousasi has arrived."
Mousasi has arrived, in UFC, where he will make his Octagon debut opposite surging 205-pound phenom Alexander Gustafsson. Both men will be fighting for a spot on the very short list of division title contenders in the main event of UFC on FUEL TV 9, scheduled for the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, on April 6, 2013.
See more on how that fight came together by clicking here.