Gegard Mousasi feels Lyoto Machida will be a tough test, but not his biggest test

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Gegard Mousasi will make his UFC middleweight debut against Lyoto Machida. The former Strikeforce champion is hopeful a win will put him in the mix for UFC gold

When Gegard Mousasi steps into the Octagon to face Lyoto Machida in the main event of UFC Fight Night 36, he will do so as a middleweight. The last time Mousasi fought at the 185-pound limit was September 2008 when he captured the Dream middleweight title with a first round knockout win over Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza.

Since that victory Mousasi has fought at light heavyweight, heavyweight and catchweight between those two limits. During that run above the middleweight limit, Mousasi's record was 10-1-1. His last win was his UFC debut, a unanimous decision over late replacement Ilir Latifi who stepped in for the injured Alexander Gustafsson.

When asked why he was dropping back to middleweight after more than five years, Mousasi told Paula Sack, "I think I will perform much better at middleweight. I feel like I had my strongest performances at middleweight. In this division I will be stronger and bigger and much more conditioned."

Machida is a fighter that shares Mousasi's view about the drop to 185, having made the move himself in his last fight. Machida's middleweight debut came at UFC Fight Night 30. In that fight, the former UFC light heavyweight champion earned Knockout of the Night honors with a first round stoppage of Mark Munoz. Machida is currently ranked No. 4 in the 185-pound division.

That ranking and Machida's 20-4 record seem to be of little consequence to Mousasi who claimed the Machida fight will be an important test, but not the toughest test of his career, saying, "I've had many fights. I've fought dangerous strikers, heavier opponents, different divisions, K-1."

Mousasi said that feels that there are gaps that exist in Machida's striking game, and in his opinion the fight will hinge on whoever makes the first mistake, "I think it's going to be a fight where whoever makes a mistake is going to pay for it."

The two middleweights will square off in the main event on the February 15 card from Jaraguá do Sul, Brazil. Mousasi has not fought since defeating Latifi in April 2013. He said that he hopes a win over Machida will put him in the mix for a middleweight title shot in his second fight at 185 pounds.

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