Mousasi vs. Latifi: Preview and Prediction for UFC on Fuel TV 9 Main Event
Mousasi was originally slated to take on Alexander Gustafsson in a battle of top-10 light heavyweights. However, a cut above Gustafsson's eye forced him off the card and little-known Swede Latifi got the nod as his last-minute replacement.
It certainly isn't what fans were hoping for, but there's still plenty of intrigue in this fight. Mousasi is obviously the overwhelming favorite.
With an inferior opponent on paper, UFC fans could get to see exactly what he's capable of doing if he wins as expected. A win for Latifi and UFC fans will be seeing one of the biggest upsets in recent memory.
Here's a breakdown of everything you need to know about UFC on Fuel TV 9's main event.
Odds (via Bovada): Mousasi -1100, Latifi +650
As mentioned earlier, the odds are stacked against Latifi. Mousasi has a wealth of experience against top-level competition outside of the UFC and the advantage of, you know, actually training for the fight.
Latifi's underdog status can be attributed to his relative lack of experience and the fact that he took the fight on short notice.
What to Know About Ilir Latifi
If you don't know much about Ilir Latifi, you aren't alone. Latifi holds a career record of 7-2 and has only fought outside of Sweden once in his career.
He's a compact wrestler with good size for the 205-pound weight division. He reportedly cut 26 pounds in three days for the fight.
The 29-year-old Latifi is currently on a three-fight win streak including a win over veteran journeyman Tony Lopez. Latifi trains with Mousasi's original opponent, Alexander Gustafsson.
Latifi Wins If...
He can get Mousasi to the ground and hold him there for all three rounds. Latifi is a big light heavyweight with a wrestling background. That's what he'll need to rely on against Mousasi.
Mousasi hasn't lost in three years, but the last time he did it was to Mohammed Lawal, a decorated wrestler. Neutralizing Mousasi's explosive kickboxing will be vital for the Swede.
What to Know About Gegard Mousasi
Until now, Mousasi was one of the best fighters that wasn't in the UFC. He's a veteran of PRIDE, DREAM and Strikeforce with an impressive record of 33-3-2. He held titles in both DREAM and Strikeforce.
Mousasi is known for his stand-up but has flashed submission skills in the past. He claims 11 wins by submission and 18 by knockout. He has no problems finishing fights and is dangerous anywhere the fight takes place.
He has notable wins over the likes of Babalu Sobral, Mark Hunt and Mike Kyle.
Mousasi Wins If...
He remains in control of the fight. This is Mousasi's fight to lose. He's the one with all the experience and holds nearly every advantage on paper.
The only way Mousasi loses this fight is if he is unable to stop Latifi's takedowns and isn't aggressive off his back. He can win the fight in a variety of ways and should be able to dominate the fight.
Prediction: Mousasi by TKO in Round 2
A Cinderella story would be undeniably fun here, but it isn't going to happen. Wrestling can be a huge advantage, but Mousasi's experience and versatility are too much to be overwhelmed by a one-dimensional game plan.
Expect Mousasi to have a feeling-out process for much of the first round. He won't want to take early risks against an opponent he didn't have time to prepare for specifically. After he settles in, it's tough to envision a scenario where he doesn't get the early finish.
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