3 Reasons Gegard Mousasi Is Being Overlooked Against Alexander Gustafsson

Dustin FilloyFeatured ColumnistFebruary 26, 2013

3 Reasons Gegard Mousasi Is Being Overlooked Against Alexander Gustafsson

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    Getting choked by current teammate Phil Davis at UFC 112 in 2010 triggered a transformation in light heavyweight contender Alexander Gustafsson.

    Since tasting his only defeat, Gustafsson has amped up his his training and linked up with Davis and his team at Alliance MMA to improve his overall game and shore up some of his grappling deficiencies.

    The move paid major dividends for Gustafsson, who followed up his loss with Davis with six straight victories, including convincing decision wins over Thiago Silva and Mauricio Rua.

    But the surging Gustafsson can't punch his ticket for a title shot until he locks horns with arguably his most dangerous opponent since Davis—former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi.

    Making his much-anticipated debut against "The Mauler" in his home of Stockholm, Sweden, at UFC on Fuel TV 9, Mousasi will enter the tilt having lost just one fight in his last 22 outings.

    With top-flight striking chops and a submission game to match, the grizzled Mousasi could derail the meteoric rise of Gustafsson.

    Here's a glimpse at three reasons "The Dreamcatcher" is being overlooked against Gustafsson.

Mousasi's the More Venomous Striker

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    Although Gustafsson has used his 76.5-inch reach wisely, Mousasi can match his ranginess (76-inch reach) and holds slight advantages in terms of striking power and technique.

    Granted, Gustafsson TKO'd a few sacrificial lambs in Matt Hamill (punches and elbows on the ground) and Vladimir Matyushenko, but his striking accomplishments pale in comparison to Mousasi's.

    The Dreamcatcher has not only won 18 pro fights by form of knockout, he also outshined K-1 standouts Musashi and Kyotaro in K-1 rules fights.

    Mousasi swarmed Musashi in the first round and brutally KO'd the two-time K-1 finalist on New Year's Eve in 2008. Exactly two years later, Mousasi outclassed Kyotaro, who entered the fight the K-1 heavyweight champion.

    Mousasi has also never been outstruck in 38 pro fights. In his last setback, he outstruck Muhammed Lawal, 171-124.

    The Mauler, on the contrary, got outstruck 28-0 by Davis and 34-17 by James Te-Huna, who Gustafsson subsequently choked in the first round.

    Gustafsson may be a lethal counterstriker with proficient technical abilities, but he's outmatched by a small margin in the striking department by Mousasi.

Mousasi's Tricky-Good Grappling

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    He certainly doesn't possess Jon Jones-like wrestling skills, but Mousasi, a longtime judo black belt, can pull off a submission on a dime, from virtually any position imaginable.

    If you don't believe those sentiments, watch Mousasi's submission wins over Mike Kyle (rear-naked choke), Mark Hunt (straight armbar), Denis Kang (triangle choke), Melvin Manhoef (triangle choke), Tatsuya Mizuno (rear-naked choke) and Jake O'Brien (guillotine choke).

    Gustafsson, a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, submitted both Cyrille Diabate and James Te-Huna following his loss to Phil Davis. The Mauler also surrendered just one takedown collectively against dangerous Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts Thiago Silva and Mauricio Rua.

    Gustafsson has unquestionably improved his grappling prowess since his loss to Davis, particularly in the category of takedown defense. However, if he suffers any mental lapses on the ground against Mousasi, he may find himself tapping or sleeping.

Mousasi's Newfound Dedication

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    Following a mess of a fight against Keith Jardine that ended in a draw (majority), Mousasi decided to drastically alter his training rituals

    Mousasi shifted his approach from laid back and informal to organized and precise, hiring coaches for every discipline and linking up with several renowed teams.

    In an interview with The MMA Hour's Ariel Helwani, Mousasi offered comprehensive detail about his decision to modify his training habits.

    I was overstrained, not motivated, not training well. I think that had something to do with it. This year-layoff got me hungry again and I'm training really good now. I think, it was good (the layoff), I'm making it a positive thing. I was just fighting.

    I won the belt in DREAM, I won the belt in Strikeforce, every fight was just a fight, it wasn't something special; it just was getting in the ring and fighting.

    I didn't have a lot of motivation the last couple of years, but I'm really excited to fight, and with the idea after this fight, maybe I can go to the UFC, so that is very motivating, and I am training really well for this fight.

    Now, I have coaches and sparring partners. I am doing now everything right. Maybe this sounds weird, but I don't believe I ever trained for a fight.

    It remains a mystery whether or not Mousasi failed to prepare properly for fights until his bout with Ovince St. Preux in Strikeforce. What's not unclear is how sharp Mousasi's looked since his draw with Jardine.

    The Dreamcatcher made short work of former Olympic silver medalist Hiroshi Izumi before brutalizing both St. Preux and Kyle in his final two bouts with Strikeforce.

    Mousasi sounded off on his decision to get serious and train more professionally by saying:

    Now, I have people that are pushing me every day, and now, I do feel like I am preparing for a fight. If I go into this fight like how I am training now, I don't see how I can lose. I'm finally feeling that I am finally training for a fight. I didn't know MMA fighting was so difficult training for a fight.