He’s definitely gone the long way about it, with 49 total fights under his belt, travelling from Europe to Japan to North America, but a win over Chris Weidman at UFC 210 could see Gegard Mousasi right on the precipice of a title shot.
The experienced middleweight seems to have been a part of the MMA furniture since time immemorial. His first professional bout was way back in 2003 while he was still a teenager, a first-round TKO victory over Daniel Spek in his native Holland, starting a run of 15 contests with only one defeat.
Mousasi came to the attention of the wider MMA world when he got his chance to compete in the now defunct Japanese organisation PRIDE in 2006, and later DREAM in 2009. The Iran-born Dutchman took on such luminaries of the era as Akihiro Gono, Denis Kang and Melvin Manhoef; the middleweight even took on and defeated current UFC standouts Mark Hunt and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza.
A champion in Britain’s Cage Warriors and later Stateside with Strikeforce, for several years Mouasi was widely regarded as the most skilled fighter outside of the UFC.
His belated Octagon debut finally came in April 2013, with his opportunity to test his skills in the world’s premier mixed martial arts promotion coming by vitue of the UFC’s purchase of Strikeforce that year.
A natural middleweight, Mousasi has spent much of his career fighting up a division at light-heavyweight, and that is where he began his UFC career with a win over Sweden’s Ilir Latifi, with the Swede himself making his Octagon bow that night as a late replacement for injured team-mate Alexander Gustafsson.
A move to 185lbs soon followed, though. Unfortunatley for Mousasi, the drop in weight brought about his first defeat in almost four years, losing a unanimous decision to Lyoto Machida.
With another two defeats in his next five outings – including a submission loss in a rematch against Souza – Mousasi seemed destined to wind down his career at the lower end of the UFC’s top 15 rankings.
However, since a TKO reverse to Uriah Hall in September 2015 – which Mousasi maintains was a fluke – the 31-year-old has won four fights on the bounce, the most recent of which being an emphatic stoppage of Hall in a rematch he had campaigned for.
Taking on Weidman, a former middleweight champion, represents one of the toughests tests of Mousasi’s career to date. But, despite the miles already on his clock, the former amateur boxer appaears to be at the peak of his powers, and will be confident of getting his hand raised.
There is somewhat of a logjam at the top of the 185lb division, not helped by champion Michael Bisping preparing to take on Georges St-Pierre, the former welterweight king returning from retirement, later this year. But a win at UFC 210 would make Mousasi as strong a contender as anyone else, and a long-awaited title shot shouldn’t be too far away.