by Steven Marrocco – MMAWeekly.com
A bulked-up Gegard Mousasi was one of many Affliction fighters who thought he was left in the dust following the collapse of the clothing company’s MMA promotion.
The 24-year-old Iranian-born Armenian railed at the waste of months preparing for Renato “Babalu” Sobral, the Strikeforce light heavyweight champion on loan for “Trilogy” on Aug. 1.
The truth was, Mousasi wasn’t that far from home. Despite open contemplation of a jump to boxing or the UFC, the Dream Middleweight Grand Prix winner had already been under contract with Strikeforce and was himself on loan to Affliction. Making the fight happen last Saturday at “Carano vs. Cyborg” was a mere window dressing.
Mousasi, who moved up from 185 pounds this year in an effort to accommodate his growing frame, blew through Sobral in 60 seconds, a grab-and-dash of Strikeforce’s light heavyweight belt.
He had arrived, Showtime commentators cooed.
“There was no pressure coming into the fight, because it was my first fight in the U.S.,” said Mousasi. “I trained hard for it and I was very confident and comfortable in the cage.”
The key, as he said all along, was informing Sobral, violently, that the fight wasn’t a jiu-jitsu match. Sure enough, Sobral tied up and scrambled for the canvas. But Mousasi landed on top and used his position to turn out the lights on the Brazilian.
“I just wanted to fight stand-up with him, but I knew he would go for the clinch,” continued Mousasi. “I didn’t want to give him any advantage. I knew that if I could take him down, I would have.
“After one, two rights I felt he was a little bit dizzy, and I gave some for better results.”
Mousasi goes next to Dream, where he’s set to face Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou in the semi-finals of the Japanese promotion’s Super Hulk Tournament. With many top light heavyweights being snatched up by rival UFC, his stateside options are limited.
Mohammed “King Mo” Lawal, and Mike Whitehead are serviceable options for the champ, but Mousasi’s readiness after Sokoudjou will play a big role in the timetable of his first defense.
Whatever his future holds, Mousasi can breathe easier knowing the efforts of the last three months weren’t in vain.