Gegard Mousasi vs. Ilir Latifi: Why This Bout Sets Up Gustafsson vs. Machida
Let's keep it real: fans will enjoy watching the UFC debut of former Strikeforce light-heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi against fellow debutante Ilir "The Sledgehammer" Latifi, but Mousasi still lies inside a lose-lose situation. A win over Latifi gives him no more than his all-prestigious first UFC win, and a loss to Latifi sets him back in his quest to challenge for UFC light-heavyweight gold.
With the recent UFC roster cuts, we cannot get a firm grip on what a loss in general will do to Latifi, outside of the obvious falling back to 7-3 professionally and 0-1 in the UFC. However, we know the eyes and ears of the MMA world will keep one sharp eye on Latifi if he wins with conviction.
The drama surrounding the loss of Alexander Gustafsson's spot in this event overshadowed plenty about this Saturday's card in general, but the addition of Latifi creates an opportunity that most fans likely did not think of when they first began freaking out over whether the UFC would can this card.
What does that mean, you ask? It means that losing Gustafsson and the two "championship" rounds that came with the original headliner also takes away one important piece spoken by UFC president Dana White.
Remember when we thought Gustafsson earned his title shot with a win over Mousasi? That disintegrated when Lyoto Machida vs. Dan Henderson played out differently than expected. Once Machida won the decision, White assured the public that Machida would get next when it came to those twelve pounds of gold.
One would think Machida will still await the winner of UFC 159's headliner between UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones and challenger Chael Sonnen. Yet, Gustafsson still carries a legitimate case towards a title shot.
Therefore, why should the two not collide when Gustafsson returns?
Machida didn't close the door on any other opportunities, Gustafsson only needs one more big win before the UFC no longer denies him a shot at the belt and defeating two former UFC light-heavyweight champions in a row pleads about as strong a case as any, especially considering both Machida and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua both enjoyed recent but brief reigns with the light-heavyweight title.
Aside from that, many still believe that Henderson defeated Machida, while Gustafsson's win over Rua remains undisputed, and both own arguable claims toward title contention. Therefore, now seems like the perfect time to consider this fight, and if Gustafsson will get cleared in time for the ink to dry on the dotted line, then no reason justifies not making it happen, especially if Machida wants it.
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