Gegard Mousasi’s UFC debut has been long-awaited by many fight fans. The 27-year old Armenian will finally have his destined UFC debut this Saturday in Stockholm, Sweden. While he was originally scheduled to face top ranked Alexander Gustafsson in a non-official title eliminator match up, the Armenian will instead face UFC newcomer, Ilir Latifi. Gustafsson had to pull out of the fight due to a laceration sustained during training and will be forced into giving up his position to his teammate in Latifi. This last second change has potentially turned Mousasi’s UFC debut into a very a risky fight.
His opponent, Ilir Latifi, is fairly unknown to common fans and even to most hard-core fans. Being a European, the majority of the U.S probably has never heard of him. He has spent his whole career fighting C to D level fighters in smaller organizations while Mousasi has fought the best possible competition he could outside of the UFC. Latifi is not the ideal debut opponent for Mousasi, which makes the stakes very high.
If Latifi pulls off the upset and defeats Gegard Mousasi, it’ll re-spawn the ideas of European MMA as being inferior to the MMA in the states. While Mousasi has fought several times inside of the United States, he is primarily represented by several different European camps. For those who are huge fans of Gegard Mousasi, it’ll be every bit of disappointing. Mousasi is undeniably one of the most skilled fighters yet to debut in the Octagon, and being upset by an inexperienced newcomer could seriously threaten the UFC’s decision to keep Mousasi around; especially with the overflowing roster that exists in the UFC today.
On the flip side, I’d say Mousasi is unanimously expected to win. However, that’s not necessarily a good thing. What does this prove of Mousasi wins? That he’s not quite as bad of a fighter as most anti-foreign MMA fans have thought? If Mousasi wins it’ll at least be comforting to know that he’s won his debut, and he’s officially made a step toward the direction that is extreme potential has almost all but reserved for him.
Mousasi is one of the most experienced fighters in MMA, but even the most experienced can be upset by lesser known fighters, let alone last-minute replacements. This could very well be Mousasi’s defining moment of his career thus far; if he wins, he is nearly promised a spot in the top 5. If he loses, the criticism will spawn and Mousasi will be labeled as one of those fighters who have “failed to meet popular expectation”. If you’re an MMA fan, you should respect Mousasi highly as accepting this fight could be one of the riskiest moves of his career.