Lyoto Machida is the big favorite against Gegard Mousasi at UFC Fight Night on Feb. 15, but he shouldn’t be. Mousasi has been one of the most dominant fighters in MMA.
With a rattlesnake-like attack, and tiger-like defense, Mousasi is one of the sport’s most unique talents. Largely unknown because he fought most of his career in Strikeforce and Japan, Mousasi has looked mostly unbeatable throughout his 10-year career, even triumphing on nights when he didn’t give his best efforts.
With only one UFC fight, against a guy a replacement guy who will probably never fight in the UFC again, Mousasi is still looking to emerge and showcase his talents on the big stage. If he defeats Machida, everyone will know his name.
Let’s take a look at this “Armenian Assassin.”
Mousasi is young. And he fights young. He’s smooth and slick and deflects punches with shades of Muhammad Ali. For a guy throwing blows against another highly skilled athlete, Mousasi always looks calm and confident, like a young guy who doesn’t know or care what’s about to hit him. Everyone talks about how Chris Weidman could dominate the sport for years, but Mousasi has three times as many fights as Weidman and is a year younger.
Record: 34-3, 2
Mousasi has fought a lot. He began his career at 18 years old, and actually even before that. He trained in judo at 8 and then boxing at 15. This guy throws a punch or a kick like most people take a step; it’s natural and easy. There hasn’t been a lot of situations he hasn’t faced. Even with nearly forty fights, Mousasi has never been knocked out, although he has tapped out twice early in his career. Mousasi knows big-match situations, and although Machida is the biggest name he has ever fought, he’s defeated guys arguably better.
Style: He’s a thinker
There’s no Wanderlei Silva or Chris Leben at the top of Mousasi’s list of fighters he wants to emulate. Mousasi doesn’t waste a lot of energy or strikes. Whether it’s all that cage experience or he was just born that way Mousasi fights like a wise sensei, looking to put mind over matter. He picks apart his opponent’s defense better than Pete Carroll in the Super Bowl. Mousasi is the kind of fighter other fighters should watch. He’s not out there “banging.” He’s a strategic tactician looking to rip his opponents apart. Mousasi’s punches are fast, from awkward angles. He’s just as dangerous on the ground. When you fight Mousasi, you can’t say, “let me take him to the ground,” or “let me keep him in the standup” because he’s equally dangerous from both. Of his 34 victories, he has finished 29 of those fights, 18 by knocked and 11 by submission.
Who has he beat? A lot of good fighters
Ronaldo Souza, Renato Sobral, Mark Hunt, Mike Kyle and Ovince St-Preux are just some of the names Mousasi has defeated. Mousasi KO’d Souza with an upkick, outwrestled St-Preux and submitted Hunt. Mousasi is the former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion, DREAM Light Heavyweight and DREAM middleweight champion. He knows big fights and he knows how to win.
Weaknesses: Injuries, inactivity
So Mousasi is a wicked striker and master defender, but he’s also been plagued by injuries. He’s fought twice in the last two years, and didn’t fight at all in 2012. He’s had multiple knee surgeries. His last fight was against Ilir Latifi, a last-second replacement for Alexander Gustafsson. Latifi fought hard, but was no match for Mousasi in a unanimous decision victory. Mousasi has also admitted to not training as hard as he could have for many of his fights. Much of victories came easily and Mousasi has said that he really didn’t start pushing himself in the gym for fights until 2013. If Mousasi has any vulnerabilities to exploit, it’s probably mental. Will he walk into the cage against Machida cold? Sometimes Mousasi lacks the passion to take the fight to the next level. In his unanimous decision loss to Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal in Strikeforce, Mousasi appeared frustrated by Lawals takedowns, and seemed OK with losing the fight on points by round 4. Mousasi needs to have his head focused against Machida. One mental lapse and he’ll be looking up at the lights.