History in the making: Gegard Mousasi makes quick work of Babalu Sobral to become Strikeforce light heavyweight champion

Esther Lin for Strikeforce

"I fight better when I'm relaxed." -- Gegard Mousasi, reflecting on his 60-second destruction of Renato Sobral.

Under ordinary circumstances, you wouldn't have an incoming fighter challenging for a world championship in his debut fight.

Then again, there is nothing "ordinary" about Gegard Mousasi.

Strikeforce got into bed with M-1 Global back in 2009, agreeing to a co-promotion deal that would see the world's finest heavyweight -- not competing for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) -- enter the Hexagon that November. But "The Last Emperor" was not the first incoming fighter to get his feet wet on Showtime.

That honor belonged to Mousasi.

"The Dreamcatcher" was also part of the M-1 package, and was able to secure a light heavyweight title shot based on his previous work, which included the DREAM middleweight grand prix title, awarded in the wake of wins -- and finishes -- over Melvin Manhoef and "Jacare" Souza.

He followed that up with a submission victory over Mark Hunt, just for shits and giggles.

But his body of work on the international circuit was set to be tested against another well-traveled veteran in the form of Renato Sobral, the winner of five straight, including a controversial submission finish over David Heath that earned him his ZUFFA pink slip.

The Strikeforce light heavyweight division was his yard.

Scott Coker and Co. wasted little time in setting up the "Sobral vs. Mousasi" championship title fight as the co-headliner for the historic Strikeforce: "Carano vs. Cyborg" event, which took place on Aug. 15, 2009 at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California.

Here's what happened.

Touch of gloves gets things started and Mousasi lumbers in with his hands held low. Sobral uncorks a leg kick and the Armenian meets him half way. They reset and "Babalu" tests the waters with a couple of punches, followed by a kick that whiffs.

Mousasi answers with one of his own.

The Brazilian catches his opponent's leg and attempt to initiate the clinch, but is instead dragged to the floor and trapped in side control. "This is the position in which I thought he would finish 'Babalu,'" says an eerily prophetic Frank Shamrock, charged with calling the action alongside Gus Johnson and Mauro Ranallo.

Truer words were never spoken.

Sobral tries to butt scoot toward the cage but in doing so, leaves his chin exposed. Mousasi fires one right down the middle and it detonates, stunning the downed champion, before the challenger goes batshit crazy with punches, ending the fight via brutal knockout in just 60 seconds.

"He's arrived," added Ranallo. "The assassin."

Mousasi would defend his strap later that year by obliterating former PRIDE FC and UFC light heavyweight Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou in the outskirts of Chicago, but coughed up his title in early 2010 against the punishing attack of wrestling whiz kid Muhammad Lawal.

He hasn't lost since.

"The Dreamcatcher" would bounce around for the next of couple years, switching back-and-forth between DREAM and Strikeforce, before finally making his Octagon debut in a three-round laugher against Ilir Latifi, a late replacement for the injured Alexander Gustafsson at UFC on FUEL TV 7.

Playtime is over.

It's time to find out if Mousasi can sink or swim in the deep waters of the middleweight division in the UFC Fight Night 36 main event against Lyoto Machida, which takes place this Saturday night (Feb. 15, 2014) at Arena Jaragua in Santa Catarina, Brazil.

A place where Mousasi will either make history -- or become history -- in hostile territory.

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