Gegard Mousasi ready to pay his dues for UFC gold

As one half of the headlining bout at UFC Fight Night 41 in Berlin on May 31st, Gegard Mousasi talks to Tom Rooney about preparing for Mark Munoz and his quest to rule over the middleweight division.

Prior to Gegard Mousasi’s last fight, when he was on the wrong side of a unanimous decision at the hands of Lyoto Machida at UFC Fight Night 36, an arduous 12 hour flight was required to take him from his base in South Holland to the shores of Jaraguá do Sul, so the trip to Berlin will surely be a comparative stone’s throw away.

For this, he must be grateful. “For sure, it’s always easier (fighting in Europe), and there is plenty of fans coming, so that’s good.

Not the most forthcoming in terms of verbiage, the 28-year-old former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion breaks that particular mould when asked about what lessons he took from that loss back in February, his first in almost four years.

“The strategy should have been a little bit different, and the coaching should have been better, also. I should have punched a little bit more and not rushed in. I should have stopped chasing him and let him come, and tried to score more. What I’ve learnt is that I can hang with the best, so I’m going to come back.”

In Mark Munoz, he will face a completely different animal to the elusive ‘Dragon’; the perennial contender at 185lbs is one of the most decorated amateur wrestlers currently competing in MMA and, like him, was turned over by the Brazilian when last entering the octagon.

Subsequently, Mousasi is very much aware what awaits him come the opening buzzer in Berlin, for what promises to be a good old fashioned striker versus grappler dust-up, and will tailor his camp accordingly.

“His wrestling, of course. He’s a guy who puts a tempo on, so I have to not fight his fight. The focus is going to be the takedown defence, especially because he going to shoot a lot. I’ll have to get up from underneath if he takes me down.

“I’m not afraid of fighting off my back, but it’s not a place you want to be because you’ll lose the round. I need some wrestlers here; I’m going to bring in some sparring partners from outside and make the best out of it. ”

That said, he has no plans to spend hours pondering on his opponent’s perceived attributes, knowing full well the intangibles that can materialise in a fight at a moment’s notice.

“I’m going to study Mark, because I haven’t seen a lot of his fights. A game plan is good, but in the fight it’s always different, because he’s going to study me and maybe he’ll be different. The key is to put pressure on him to make mistakes; make him shoot, and if he’s not able to take me down, maybe he’ll get frustrated and I’ll counter-punch.”

He acknowledges, as we all must, that making it a kick-boxing match is his most viable path to victory, but thoughts of a grappling-heavy encounter do not give him sleepless nights.

“I think in the stand-up I have a good chance of finishing him, but I feel I can do it with submissions too. If I stop his takedown and get top position, I can get ground and pound. I feel like there are a lot of ways to win this fight.”

Beyond Munoz, who, by the way, he has barley peeped, Mousasi says the present flux permeating the 185lbs division means that every fight is pivotal and notions of entitlement folly, so he’s ready to work.

“In the UFC, you have to see every fight as a championship fight. The landscape changes every time; the fighters that are winning, then they lose one and have to get back in line again. I just need to win my fights, and after two or three, I’m going to be in the mix again.

“Every fight is important. I think a lot of guys are ahead of me for the title shot, I need a big win to get back in the mix, but if I lose, maybe the next time my career is on the line, so there is always pressure.”

By Tom Rooney – @oldmanrooney