Gegard MousasiPrior to each UFC fight card, Jay Primetown takes a look at some of the key contests at each event. In the latest installment, we look at the co-main event of UFC 204 as Top 10 middleweights Vitor Belfort and Gegard Mousasi square off in Manchester, England. Vitor Belfort (Record: 25-12, +280 Underdog, Power Ranking: B) The Phenom has been fighting professionally for nearly 20 years. He fought for the UFC as early as 1997 before leaving the promotion to fight for organizations such as Affliction and Pride before returning to the UFC in 2009 where he has been ever since. Belfort has lost two of his last three fights in the first round by TKO to former champion Chris Weidman and top contender Jacare Souza. His last win was in 2015 when he knocked out Dan Henderson in Brazil. “The Phenom” is one of the greatest, if not the best blitzer in the sport. After a short feeling-out process, Belfort looks to utilize speed and an aggressive blitz to quickly finish his opponents and get a knockout finish. He’s beaten some excellent opposition in this fashion such as middleweight champion Michael Bisping and former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold. The difference between those wins and where Belfort currently stands today is TRT. With further regulation added to the sport, the Brazilian is not the same fighter he was when he knocked out those elite opponents. His speed, strength, and physique are simply not at the same level as they once were. Belfort still has great hands and a strong switch kick. He’s certainly capable of catching top-level opponents, but his window to do that is minimal at best if he’s not able to finish his opponent early. Gegard Mousasi (Record: 39-6, -340 Favorite, Power Ranking: A-) The Iranian-born, Dutch-raised fighter has fought in nearly all of the world’s largest mixed martial arts promotions including Dream, Pride, Strikeforce, and the UFC. Since a stunning knockout loss to Uriah Hall one year ago, Mousasi has reeled off consecutive wins and doing so in an impressive fashion over Thales Leites and Thiago Santos. Mousasi is a lifetime mixed martial artist. He picked up judo at age eight and later boxing and kickboxing as a teenager. Mousasi has decent output at 3.56 significant strikes per minute. He’s a crafty striker. He’s not overly creative, but the technique is clean and certainly stands out when he fights. Where he’s tremendously successful is his defense. He absorbs a stunningly low 1.18 significant strikes per minute defending 69 percent of strikes against him. Since 2010, only Jacare Souza connected on more than 30 strikes against Mousasi. He certainly prefers to strike, but has gone to his ground game against dangerous opponents. He’s successfully landed 1.65 takedowns per 15 minutes in the cage and does well to control his opponent on the mat. Outside of a submission loss to BJJ ace Souza, Mousasi hasn’t been submitted since 2006. All in all, Mousasi has one of the most balanced approaches in this division and will likely be in the division’s Top 5 at some point in 2017. Matchup An important matchup for Mousasi as he looks to add a real name to his list of wins. Mousasi holds a two-inch height and reach advantage in this bout. Look for Mousasi to work from range on the feet, staying out of Belfort’s head kick range. Once he’s ready to close the distance, he can push Belfort against the cage and outwork the Brazilian in the clinch. It wouldn’t surprise me if Mousasi goes for a takedown in this bout early. Belfort is at his best early in the first round when he has the energy to blitz in and go for a knockout. As he slows down, his ability really diminishes. Mousasi is well-conditioned and can absolutely dominate this fight after the opening minutes. I expect Mousasi to really take it to Belfort late in the first round and perhaps in the second round before getting a finish. Mousasi is a nice parlay piece even at -340, but if you are looking for something a little less juiced, Mousasi Inside the Distance currently sits at -215. Both should be victorious on Saturday night.


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