It’s hard not to love Gegard Mousasi’s attitude towards the nightmare situation that’s developed this weekend in Sweden. It doesn’t matter who gets in the cage with him, to paraphrase the former Strikeforce & Dream light heavyweight champion, because he will thrash anyone he’s given. He doesn’t want to wait for Gustafsson to get better before he fights him; he signed up for a fist fight on April 6th and by god he’ll get it.
Most fighters would’ve pulled out in his situation, especially considering that he might be closer to a title shot than we think. It seems plausible that Mousasi could’ve said “thanks but I’ll wait for the giant Swede” and been placed on a card of significance in the next month or so. The FUEL TV card would’ve been hosed, of course, but his attitude is something to be commended. He wants to fight, nothing more, and the fact that he’ll take on anyone available so close to fight night is something commendable.
The fact that he got Gustafsson in his first fight says volumes on what the UFC thought of his talent. He went from fighting someone who was only a fight away from the winner of Jones/Sonnen at the end of the month to taking on Gustafsson’s training partner (and the man who actually caused the cut) in Ilir Latifi. It’s a genuine “Rocky” type moment for Latifi, who gets to try and tackle an absolutely tough fighter on less than a week’s notice mainly because he’s available, local and in the proper state of mind to fight.
It’s a genuine “Rocky” type moment for Latifi, too.
Considering the film is one of my favorite films of all time it’s great in a way to see the UFC throwing Latifi in against a Top 10 caliber opponent and hoping for the best. Latifi has had an interesting fight career, so far, and has a solid record in the European theatre of MMA so far. His best fight is a loss against Emmanuel Newton, one in which he took the first round and lost the next two handily. Newton is coming off a Bellator light heavyweight tournament victory most noteworthy for his epic knockout of another former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion in Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal. Latifi has a fan friendly style, known to eschew the ground game for wild striking exchanges, and that plays into Mousasi’s strengths as a fighter.
If anything the first round of Saturday night’s fight could be a candidate for “round of the year” when all is said and done; a fighter known for loving to throw hands with a chance at being outclassed going against one of the best strikers in the division in a wild striking exchange could be something. I’m not sure what … but it could be something.
He must have some talent, of course, considering he’s Gustafsson’s training partner, but in the UFC that hasn’t amounted to a lot for a number of fighters hyped up as someone’s training partner. History tells us that most likely this is going to be a one sided beating, with Mousasi swinging the hammer, but Latifi is in the best of any world right now. If he loses, particularly awfully, it’s completely excusable. Fighting Mousasi on less than a week’s notice without sacrificing something from a competitive standpoint is perfectly understandable.
But if he does anything else in this fight … Latifi could have his own “Rocky” moment. On an otherwise throwaway card on FUEL V that’s something that could be special out of the worst situation possible.