Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) acted swiftly and decisively when it learned over the weekend that Alexander Gustafsson sustained a significant cut in training that would more than likely force him out of the UFC on Fuel TV 9 main event (100 percent, actually), which takes place this upcoming Saturday (April 6, 2013) at Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden.
The world's leading mixed martial arts (MMA) maintained radio silence, allowed Dana White to launder inaccurate updates through Ariel Helwani's cell phone via text message as if it nothing was amiss, allowed its fighters -- namely Wanderlei Silva -- to troll the Internet on April Fools Day and then finally tonight announced through White's Twitter.com account that virtual unknown Ilir Latifi, Gustafsson's training partner, will replace him against Gegard Mousasi.
The 29 year-old "Sledgehammer" is a fixture in his native Sweden, but is no stranger to International competition, having gone toe-to-toe with top Bellator Light Heavyweight Emanuel Newton, as well as Pancrase veteran Tatsuya Mizuno. He's a well-rounded 7-2 with a nice balance of three submission wins against two victories via (technical) knockout.
However, Latifi -- who has apparently trained alongside former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Rashad Evans -- stands just 5'8" tall, which would be considered rather short for a 205-pound fighter, not to mention this will mark his promotional debut.
Check out a recent "Fight Life" mini-documentary that featured Latifi's pursuit of a UFC opportunity:
The knock on Latifi in the video above was that he lacked confidence in the stand up department, relying heavily on his wrestling pedigree to carry him to victory. He was admittedly two or three wins away from perhaps getting a shot at the big time, a process that was clearly fast-tracked because of his pal's misfortune.
Unfortunately, for a man who lacks striking confidence, Mousasi is perhaps the worst match up for Latifi. Not only is he a savage striker, but he is a stone-cold stoic killer who isn't too pleased with how this situation has played out. The good news is "Dream Catcher" was eager to compete against anyone this weekend and Latifi perhaps accepted the bout when not too many other options were as willing and/or viable.
Mousasi wasted no time expressing his gratitude via Twitter.com:
Suppose Latifi is better than no one, and with nothing to lose and with zero expectations, the Swede just may surprise us fight fans this upcoming Saturday afternoon.
To check out the most recent UFC on Fuel TV 9 fight card and rumors click here. And for the latest and greatest "Mousasi vs. Latifi" news and notes be sure to hit up or complete event archive right here.