Two vastly different light heavyweights took center stage yesterday (April 6, 2013) as former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi took on short notice injury replacement Ilir Latifi in the main event of UFC on Fuel TV 9 in Stockholm, Sweden.
Mousasi had initially been preparing to fight Alexander Gustafsson, but an unfortunate cut ruined what was expected to be a stellar light heavyweight showdown.
In for "The Mauler" was Latifi, a teammate of the Swede with a short and stocky build and a fearless mentality taking on one of the most dangerous light heavyweights in the world.
Latifi was game, but Mousasi was just too much and it showed in the opening seconds when "The Dreamcatcher" repeatedly popped Latifi with his jab.
Latifi fired back with some leg kicks as both men traded shots, but it was Mousasi who snapped his left hand in Latifi's face and stifled the stocky slugger's offense.
Mousasi completely controlled the striking exchanges, scoring repeatedly with his lead left and occasional straight rights, but he was more than content to stand on the outside and pick Latifi apart, much to the dismay of the crowd who wanted to see a more casual slugfest.
The best moment for Latifi was probably the occasional wild left hook or right that landed, but for the most part, Mousasi stayed at the perfect distance to snap that jab and not get hit back, especially because Latifi was not throwing his punches straight. That distance also prevented Latifi from being able to explode inside and even attempt to take him down.
It was no big surprise when the bout was over as Mousasi easily coasted to a unanimous decision victory winning 30-27 on all three judges' scorecards.
For Ilir Latifi, he did an admirable job considering the circumstances. A lesser fighter would have probably wilted much more under the constant barrage of jabs and straight rights coming his way, but he hung in there and was firing off big power shots for 15 straight minutes. I would have liked to see him try to take Mousasi down more often, particularly after he landed a big left or right hand and had the former Strikeforce champ backing off, but again, he did the best he could. You have to remember that Latifi was a complete unknown taking on a top 10 light heavyweight on the planet.
For Gegard Mousasi, yes, it would have been nice to see him fight with of a sense of purpose, but this was a systematic destruction. He was hardly touched for three straight rounds other than the occasional glancing haymaker and his use of distance was superb. In light of the news that Mousasi fought on an injured knee and was sick this week, I have to give him some respect. He prepared to fight a 6'5 striker and instead found out he was taking on a 5'10 stocky brawler/wrestler and while I would have loved to see him be more aggressive in going for the kill after obliterating Latifi with his jab, he still did a good job here. Perhaps we'll see the killer instinct out of him next time against a bigger opponent and on a healthier knee.
As long as the knee injury doesn't sideline Mousasi too long, potential opponents for "The Dreamcatcher" include the upcoming Antonio Rogerio Nogueira vs. Mauricio Rua winner, the Rashad Evans vs. Dan Henderson winner or Jimi Manuwa.