Strikeforce's main event in Gina "Conviction" Carano vs. Christiane "Cyborg" Santos isn't the most appealing fight on the card to the hardcore fanbase. No, it's the light heavyweight championship showdown between DREAM and PRIDE veteran Gegard Mousasi (28-2-1) vs. UFC and Affliction veteran and current Strikeforce Light Heavyweight champion Renato "Babalu" Sobral (35-8).
The contest is a leftover from the doomed Affliction: Trilogy card, and luckily for fans -- the bout was saved by Strikeforce in time to push it to this event to bolster some hardcore fan interest. What makes this match even more interesting is that it's Mousasi's first legitimate fight in the light heavyweight division.
Mousasi is a Dutch-Armenian MMA fighter and kickboxer who was actually born in Iran. He moved to the Netherlands at the age of 4, and became interested in mixed martial arts in his teenage years with Judo and Boxing. He took up one of Holland's most popular mixed martial arts in kickboxing with some success, and later moved to MMA. He rattled off a record of 11-1-1 before making his debut in Japan at in DEEP. Hot off a win over Hidetada Ire, he made his splash into a major promotion in PRIDE with victories over Makoto Takimoto and Hector Lombard with a lone loss to Akihiro Gono.
After his win over Lombard, he rattled off 6 more wins in regional promotions with a notable win over Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos at HCF: Destiny in Canada. With an impressive record to brag about, Mousasi made his way into the DREAM Middleweight tournament in 2008. He surprised many fans with solid wins over current UFC fighter Denis Kang, heavy-handed Dutch striker Melvin Manhoef, and judoka Dong Sik Yoon. In the tournament final, he defeated BJJ black belt Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza via an upkick to win the tournament belt. In '08, Mousasi won a total of six bouts, garnering a buzz that Mousasi's overall run during the year put him in line for Fighter of the Year honors from various websites in the blogs.
In May of 2009, DREAM decided to enter Mousasi into the "Super Hulk" tournament that featured names such as Mark Hunt, Hong Man Choi, Rameau Sokoudjou, and Bob Sapp. Mousasi displayed his technique vs. size in his match-up against Mark Hunt, submitting the massive fighter via kimura in the first round.
Mousasi trains out of Team Jurojin in Holland, but also trains with Fedor Emelianenko and other fighters with the Red Devil Sport Club. He has solid submissions abilities, tremendous kickboxing and boxing attributes, and is considered to be a very well-rounded fighter at any weight class. He's also considered making a move to heavyweight.
His opponent will be his toughest test in his career in Renato "Babalu" Sobral. Sobral has a career that spans 12 years that include RINGS bouts with Dan Henderson, Kiyoshi Tamura, Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, and Fedor Emelianeko. His first stint in the UFC produced a 1-2 record with losses to Chuck Liddell and Kevin Randleman, but he bounced back with wins over Jeremy Horn, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, and Trevor Prangley in an IFC tournament event. All three wins came in one night's action.
His second UFC stint produced a 4-2 record with wins over Chael Sonnen, Travis Wiuff, Mike Van Arsdale, and David Heath. He once again lost to Chuck Liddell, and he dropped the following fight to Jason Lambert via KO. The stint ended in controversy as Sobral destroyed David Heath in every area of their bout, and choked out Heath at the 3:30 mark of the second round. Sobral held on to the choke despite the referee waving him off. He was fined by the NSAC, and the UFC subsequently dropped his contract. The UFC still states it was due to "poor performances" rather than the actual choke.
Sobral moved on to win four straight bouts following his removal from the UFC. Most notably, he defeated Mike Whitehead at Affliction:Banned, Bobby Southworth at Strikeforce: Destruction for the Strikeforce LHW title, and Rameau Sokoudjou at Affliction: Day of Reckoning in his most recent tilt.
Much like Mousasi, Babalu is considered to be a complete mixed martial artist. He was a Brazilian national wrestling champion early in his life, and moved to training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai, and boxing as his career progressed. He's well-known for being tough as nails and exhibiting an aggression in his fights that can only be described as tenacious at times. Bobby Southworth could probably more accurately depict it, but David Heath experienced its full effect. He currently trains in Cerritos, California at his own gym.
This fight will be an ultimate test for Mousasi's new weight, but it'll be a huge test for his ground game. He was able to knockout BJJ expert Ronaldo Souza via an upkick, but he likely won't have the same opportunity in this fight. He'll need to show the world that he can hang with a tenacious guy like Sobral if he intends to win. In the stand-up game, Mousasi has the edge with his kickboxing and boxing techniques, but Sobral has some surprises in the boxing game as well. If Mousasi can maintain a standing battle, he'll likely be able to out point Sobral on the scorecards, but Sobral has a knack for getting fights to where he wants them.
Another factor could be the cage. Mousasi doesn't have much experience, if any at all. He may have a practice cage, but Sobral uses the cage to his advantage in many situations. If he gets Mousasi into the fence, he may land huge elbows much like the Southworth fight.
Sobral probably has the overall edge in this fight. He's fought much longer at Light Heavyweight than Mousasi, has the grappling and wrestling on the floor to give him problems, and he'll have the cage experience over Mousasi. There is still something about Mousasi that intrigues me, and it mostly comes down to whether or not Mousasi can hang with Sobral on the floor. My gut tells me "No", but Mousasi has made a fool out a lot of people claiming guys would destroy him. One of the best match-ups on the Strikeforce card on Saturday night, Enjoy it!
Who will win?
Renato "Babalu" Sobral (447 votes)
Gegard Mousasi (794 votes)
1241 total votes