After being installed as a 20-to-1 favorite over short-notice replacement Ilir Latifi in the UFC on FUEL 9 main event, Gegard Mousasi was always going to have a hard time impressing the audience. Outside of an instant KO, it was always going to be a tall order.
As it turns out, Mousasi needed all three rounds to find victory. The fight, though, was never close. In fact, it was mostly a three-round beating, but Latifi made it to the final bell, and Mousasi got his first octagon victory by a trio of 30-27 scores.
Mousasi's workmanlike decision was largely centered around a sharp, stinging left jab that kept the wrestler Latifi at distance, too far out to effectively shoot.
"I know he's a wrestler so I didn't want him to close the distance," he said afterward. "I fought smart. Some people lay and pray, so maybe I did a little bit of that standup."
Afterward, Mousasi (34-3-2), said he didn't come into the fight at optimal health. He said he entered with an injury and also came down with a cold during fight week. It was because of those factors, he said, that he "didn't go berserk."
Still, he battered Latifi with his sniper-like jab. That kept Latifi constantly circling around the perimeter of the cage, trying to stay out of harm's way. By the end of the fight, Latifi's face was bloodied from various cuts and bruised. According to FightMetric, he out-landed Latifi 80-20 in total strikes.
Latifi (7-3, 1 no contest) shot only a single time in the first round, and rarely thereafter, and he only got Mousasi to the ground once, mostly by accident, when Mousasi slipped in the fight's final seconds. There wasn't enough time for him to land any significant, an in fact, Mousasi scored the best strike from the grounded position with an upkick.
The style matchup for Mousasi was worlds apart from his original setup against Alexander Gustafsson. While both Latifi and Gustafsson are Swedes, Latifi is a 5-foot-9 wrestler while Gustafsson is a 6-foot-5 striker.
Upon winning, Mousasi said that he hopes that he gets the matchup with Gustafsson.
"Alexander is a gentleman and a true sportsman," he told the audience at Stockholm's Ericsson Globe. "I wish him a good recovery and maybe we can do it [later]."