STOCKHOLM – In a safe, methodical and workmanlike manner, Gegard Mousasi – to very little surprise – won his UFC debut.
Scheduled to meet contender Alexander Gustafsson – but instead getting newcomer Ilir Latifi when Gustafsson was ruled out earlier this week due to a facial cut – Mousasi avoided his opponent’s power and wrestling and jabbed his way to a dominant unanimous-decision victory.
The light-heavyweight bout headlined today’s UFC on FUEL TV 9 event at Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm. It aired on FUEL TV following prelims on Facebook.
Mousasi, an approximate 10-to-1 favorite, didn’t balk at the change of opponents, which came just five days before the event. With Latifi, who’s one of Gustafsson’s training partners, UFC officials were forced to promote a mismatch. But with Latifi, they were able to keep a Swedish fighter in the main event.
Mousasi, a former champion in the UFC’s since-closed sister promotion Strikeforce, kicked early and peppered in some left jabs as he backed Latifi toward the fence. Latifi wasn’t afraid to throw, but Mousasi held his hands low as he backed up his short-notice opponent. Latifi shot for a takedown 75 seconds into the round, but Mousasi stuffed it and then avoided the brunt of a big right hand from the Swede as the two separated.
Latifi continually wound up and threw big punches, but Mousasi stayed out of range and calmly walked him down and threw jabs and low leg kicks. Latifi gestured to Mousasi with 20 seconds left in the round, telling him to fire away. He got the crowd behind him, but it did little more than that.
Latifi landed a good left hand a minute into the second round, but Mousasi kept backing him up and working him over with jabs. With 90 seconds left, Latifi started to open up his counter-striking game and landed a strong right hand, but it essentially was his best offense in the fight. Mousasi appeared to hurt Latifi with a left hook and then continued to stalk him down whenever he circled on the outside.
With two minutes left in the round, Latifi shot for a takedown, and again Mousasi sprawled out of it. He quickly tried to take Latifi’s back, but the Swedish fighter was quickly out of there knowing danger that coming.
In the final frame, Latifi tried a high spinning kick that was off the mark, but Mousasi stayed calm and kept peppering away at his opponent’s bloodied-up face. With three minutes left, Latifi was wearing down from the constant pressure. Still, midway through the round, he landed a good left hand, but repeated jabs from Mousasi came on the heels of it. With 30 seconds left, a short scramble had Mousasi falling back into guard, and Latifi landed a good punch from his knees. But it certainly was far too little, too late.
When the scores were read, Mousasi, a former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion, had a sweep from the judges, 30-27, on all three cards.
“Coming into this fight, I was injured, and last week I got a cold. I didn’t go berserk,” Mousasi said. “I thought I had it striking-wise, and I took advantage of that. I know he’s a wrestler, so I didn’t want him to close the distance. I fought smart. Some people lay and pray – so maybe I did a little of that with the standup.”
Mousasi (34-3-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC) won for the fourth straight time and is unbeaten in his past seven fights. Latifi (7-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC), meanwhile, had a three-fight win streak snapped with the loss.
Up-to-the-minute UFC on FUEL TV 9 results include:
- Gegard Mousasi def. Ilir Latifi via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Ross Pearson def. Ryan Couture via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 3:45
- Matt Mitrione def. Philip De Fries via KO (punches) – Round 1, 0:19
- Brad Pickett def. Mike Easton via split decision (28-29, 30-27, 30-27)
- Diego Brandao def. Pablo Garza via submission (arm-triangle choke) – Round 1, 3:27
- Akira Corassani def. Robbie Peralta via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Reza Madadi def. Michael Johnson via submission (arm-triangle choke) – Round 3, 1:33
- Tor Troeng def. Adam Cella via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 3:11
- Adlan Amagov def. Chris Spang via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Conor McGregor def. Marcus Brimage via TKO (strikes) – Round 1, 1:07
- Ryan LaFlare def. Ben Alloway via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Tom Lawlor def. Michael Kuiper via submission (guillotine choke) – Round 2, 1:05
- Papy Abedi def. Besam Yousef via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
For complete coverage of UFC on FUEL TV 9, stay tuned to the UFC Events section of the site.
(Pictured: Gegard Mousasi)
John Morgan contributed to this report on-site in Stockholm.