Gegard Mousasi picked away at Ilir Latifi in the UFC on Fuel TV 9 main event. | Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
Gegard Mousasi made the best of a bad situation.
The 27-year-old former Strikeforce and Dream champion chipped away at the face and resolve of Ilir Latifi in the UFC on Fuel TV 9 main event, as he coasted to a unanimous decision on Saturday at the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm. Mousasi swept the scorecards by identical 30-27 counts, announcing his arrival in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s light heavyweight division.
Latifi replaced the world-ranked Alexander Gustafsson on short notice after a cut suffered late in training camp forced the surging Swede to withdraw from the headliner.
Mousasi was exact and efficient, as he dissected Latifi from a distance and tipped his long reach with precise punches. According to FightMetric figures, “The Dreamcatcher” out-landed his foe by better than a 4-to-1 margin in terms of significant strikes. Afterward, Latifi’s face showed the wear and tear of Mousasi’s handiwork.
When the Gustafsson-Mousasi matchup was originally announced it was greeted with anticipation, and Mousasi’s performance, while less than spectacular, does nothing to diminish its appeal. That leaves UFC matchmakers with options. While Gustafsson remains in play, a potential bout with Mousasi and former NCAA wrestling champion Phil Davis could also prove attractive, provided “Mr. Wonderful” gets past Vinny Magalhaes and his otherworldly submission skills at UFC 159 later this month.
No matter which direction it elects to go with Mousasi, the UFC has a shiny new piece with which to play at 205 pounds.
In the wake of UFC on Fuel TV 9 “Mousasi vs. Latifi,” here are seven other matches that ought to be made:
Ross Pearson vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov-Abel Trujillo winner: Pearson reaffirmed his place as one of the UFC’s best boxers and most consistent entertainers, as he rebounded from a slow start to clobber and stop Ryan Couture in the co-main event. “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 9 winner has notched back-to-back wins since returning to the lightweight division after a brief flirtation with 145 pounds. The undefeated Nurmagomedov has finished 10 of his last 11 opponents and next faces Trujillo at UFC 160 on May 25.
Brad Pickett vs. Urijah Faber-Scott Jorgensen winner: Pickett continued to keep his game in the hat of potential title contenders at 135 pounds, as he outdueled Alliance MMA export Mike Easton en route to a split decision in a memorable 15-minute battle. The 34-year-old has won 13 of his last 16 bouts, establishing himself as one of the world’s top 10 bantamweights. Faber and Jorgensen will lock horns in “The Ultimate Fighter 17” Finale on April 13 in Las Vegas.
Ilir Latifi vs. Ovince St. Preux-Gian Villante loser: Though he lost in one-sided fashion, Latifi performed admirably in his short-notice promotional debut, forcing Mousasi to go the distance. Perhaps the UFC will gain a better grasp on his long-term potential once Latifi is afforded a full training camp. The 205-pound division is not as deep as it has been in the past, which gives the Swede a little margin for error. Strikeforce transplants St. Preux and Villante will meet at UFC 159 on April 27.
Ryan Couture vs. Colin Fletcher: For five minutes, Couture looked like he belonged in the cage with Pearson. Then came the second round, where Pearson put him away with a bevy of power punches. The jury remains out on whether or not Couture has what it takes to stick around in the UFC. Fletcher faces similar doubts following consecutive losses to Norman Parke and Mike Ricci.
Mike Easton vs. Michael McDonald: Easton fell short in his bid to unseat Pickett from his perch in the top 10 at 135 pounds. Still, “The Hulk” has a lot to offer if he can overcome the first real adversity of his professional career and respond to back-to-back defeats. McDonald has the look of a future champion, but a February submission loss to interim titleholder Renan Barao raised some questions that need to be answered.
Matt Mitrione vs. Todd Duffee: Mitrione needed a mere 19 seconds to dispatch Philip De Fries, as “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 10 graduate halted a two-fight losing streak and picked up his first victory since June 2011. Duffee had similar fun at the British wrestler’s expense in December, stopping De Fries in a little more than two minutes.
Diego Brandao vs. Rani Yahya: Brandao kept his emotions in check and fought at a measured pace, submitting Pablo Garza with a first-round arm-triangle choke. “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 14 winner has compiled a 3-1 mark since joining the UFC, and, with continued development and maturity, could easily become a serious player at 145 pounds. A 2007 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist, Yahya won for the third time in four fights at UFC on Fuel TV 8 in March, when he defeated Mizuto Hirota by unanimous decision in Japan.