Gegard Mousasi just isn't as well known as he should be.
Despite being considered one of the better fighters in whichever division he chooses to compete in, he just hasn't made a big name for himself among UFC fans yet. From Pride to DREAM to Strikeforce, Mousasi has fought and finished some of the best fighters out there, but to fans who only follow the Ultimate Fighting Championship, he is still something of an unknown.
Recently, I took an in-depth look at Mousasi's technical habits; here, I'm going to give a quick introduction to his bouts and some of his accomplishments.
Hector Lombard: Pride Bushido 13, November 5, 2006
If you're just getting to know Mousasi, a sensible place to start might be this bout. He did not look much like the fighter he would become, and neither did Lombard, but a few things have remained constant.
First, Lombard is a strong judo player and always has been. He was able to get Mousasi to the floor several times throughout the bout, but Mousasi's ground game proved too wily as he managed to escape or claim top position several times.
Second, Lombard can punch. Even before he went on his tear in Bellator, he was a frighteningly hard hitter. One thing that this fight proved more than any other is that when Mousasi's polished striking isn't there, his chin remains. And what a chin it is.
Mousasi gritted through an even fight, and his grappling chops picked him up a close decision.
Denis Kang: DREAM 2, April 29, 2008
After the dissolution of Pride, Mousasi fought all over the place through 2007—in Canada, the Netherlands and United Kingdom, he and didn't pick up a single loss. In 2008 he was invited back to Japan by the new DREAM organization in order to take part in its middleweight grand prix.
Unlike DREAM's later events, this one was stacked with talented fighters, and in the first round, Mousasi was matched against the formidable Denis Kang.
Kang had something of a similar career to Mousasi, maintaining a relentless schedule and building up an incredible record, but he was invited to the UFC far later than he deserved to be. In 23 fights from April 2003 to November 2006, he didn't lose a single one. Mousasi was considered a remarkably active fighter, but his fight frequency had never been anywhere close to that.
The fight was all Kang in the early going.
There was a quick exchange on the feet and then a takedown, with Kang working to pass the half guard and eventually locking a kimura grip from side control. Mousasi found himself defending the kimura and attempting to knee Kang in the head from the bottom. Mousasi scrambled back to guard and attacked with his famous upkicks (something I discussed at length in the technical article). As Kang ducked in under one of these upkicks, he got locked into a triangle choke, which ended the bout.
Survival and opportunism were going to become Mousasi's defining traits in the tournament.
Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza: DREAM 6, September 23, 2008
Mousasi worked his way through Yoon Dong Sik at DREAM 4, narrowly avoiding being submitted by the famous "Dong bar." Then he took an easy win over kickboxer Melvin Manhoef in his first fight at DREAM 6. His second of the night was against fellow tournament finalist Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza.
In similar fashion to Mousasi, Jacare had finished his first bout of the night in 90 seconds by submitting Zelg Galesic.
A true jiu-jitsu master, Jacare had looked incredible through the tournament, and by the minute mark of the bout, he had slammed Mousasi to the mat. Despite Jacare's grappling credentials, Mousasi was able to hold the Brazilian up in half guard for long enough that Jacare decided to stand and then dive back in with strikes.
As Jacare jumped back in, he was hit with one of Mousasi's fearsome upkicks and knocked out cold. Mousasi became the Dream middleweight champion and was considered by many to be the breakout fighter of 2008.
Renato "Babalu" Sobral: Strikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg, August 15, 2009
In his Strikeforce debut, Mousasi met the wily veteran Renato "Babalu" Sobral. Babalu had been dismissed from the UFC for holding a choke too long in his victory over David Heath. In the aftermath, he together a five-fight streak and won the Strikeforce title.
He seemed like a great test for Mousasi, and the matchup appeared to be an exciting one when it was announced. In fact Mousasi was so on point that it was almost underwhelming. In one minute, he starched the Brazilian veteran from inside the guard.
What seemed like a great matchup of world-class fighters turned out to be a comical mismatch. It certainly didn't help Strikeforce that in the next bout of the night, women's MMA poster girl and Strikeforce breadwinner Gina Carano was just as outmatched by "Cyborg" Santos.
Kyotaro: Dynamite!! 2010, December, 31 2010
Japanese New Year's Eve events always involve a cross-over between MMA and kickboxing. This could mean a K-1 star taking an ill-fated MMA match or an MMA fighter taking a kickboxing match. Just three weeks after the K-1 Grand Prix, Mousasi signed to fight Japanese kickboxer Kyotaro.
In fairness to Kyotaro, he had fought Semmy Schilt three weeks earlier, was underprepared and overtrained, and he didn't do himself justice at all. But he uses the same methods in every bout, backpedaling until he can convince his opponent to run onto his tremendous right hand.
Mousasi defused this beautifully and outpointed Kyotaro to the extent that the kickboxer got overaggressive, and Mousasi was able to knock down the K-1 heavyweight champion.
It didn't mean much, given the circumstances, but because of the similarities in methodology between Kyotaro and Machida, and because it is one of Mousasi's better showings on the feet, it is worth checking out.
Bonus Fight: Fedor Emelianenko vs. Mousasi Exhibition
This one is always worth a watch.