Prior 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 210 as Gegard Mousasi takes on former middleweight champion Chris Weidman. Gegard Mousasi (Record: 41-6, -120 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 his stunning knockout loss to Uriah Hall one year ago, Mousasi has been on an absolute tear winning his last four fights — all in dominant fashion. Mousasi is a lifetime mixed martial artist. He picked up judo at age eight and later boxing and kickboxing as a teenager. Mousasi has solid output landing 3.68 significant strikes per minute. He’s a crafty striker. He’s not overly creative, but the technique is clean and it certainly stands out when he fights. Where he’s tremendously successful is in his defense. He absorbs a stunningly low 1.20 significant strikes per minute, defending 69 percent of strikes against him. Since 2010, only Jacare Souza has connected on more than 30 strikes against Mousasi. He’s a fighter that is going to be very difficult to beat in a traditional striking exchange. He is a striker by trade, but he has developed a ground game gone and has used it against dangerous opponents. He’s successfully landed 1.64 takedowns per 15 minutes in the cage and does well to control his opponents on the mat. Outside of a submission loss to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace Jacare Souza, Mousasi hasn’t been submitted since 2006. His defensive wrestling has historically been a question mark (61 percent takedown defense), but only Jacare has been able to get Mousasi to the mat since 2011. The loss to Uriah Hall in 2015 has been a blessing in disguise for Mousasi, who has developed a much more calculated approach in his last few fights and is now just a win from putting himself into the title discussion. Chris Weidman (Record: 13-2, +100 Underdog, Power Ranking: A) The former UFC middleweight champion has fought in just two promotions: Ring of Combat and the UFC. After going 4-0 in Ring of Combat, he made his way over to the UFC and beat some of the most talented grapplers in the sport in Demian Maia and Mark Munoz before dethroning middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva to become champion. Recently, Weidman has fallen on hard times, losing his championship to Luke Rockhold in 2015 and then suffering a stunning flying knee knockout defeat to top contender Yoel Romero. Those are the only two losses of Weidman’s MMA career. Weidman is one of the best wrestlers in the UFC’s middleweight division. He was a two-time junior college All-American at Nassau Community College before he transferred to Hofstra. At Hofstra, Weidman was also a two-time All-American and finished third in the NCAA Division I National Championships during his senior year. Weidman has worked hard on his striking, typically looking to maintain a range striking attack. With a 78-inch reach, he’s one of the longest fighters in the division. His striking volume is relatively modest at 3.09 significant strikes per minute, while his strikes absorbed average out to 2.90 per minute. His loss to Rockhold significantly skews his defensive stats, as the fight should have been stopped in round three instead Weidman absorbed an additional 50 strikes than he should have. Weidman is capable of maintaining a strong pace for a 15 minutes, it’s when his fights have extended beyond that is when he has struggled with pace. For Weidman to be a viable contender, he needs to focus on his offensive wrestling. He’s secured at least one takedown in every single fight he has had in the UFC. Furthermore, he averages a whopping 3.33 takedowns per 15-minute fight. That’s one of the highest takedown averages in the UFC. On the ground, Weidman has one of the best top control games in the sport and is very good at delivering elbows. He has a sneaky good submission game as well from that position. Matchup A very important fight in the middleweight division is the co-main event of UFC 210, as former champion Weidman takes on surging middleweight contender Gegard Mousasi. This is a matchup of two fighters that are on opposite ends of momentum. Weidman has lost his last two fights and is desperate to get back into the win column. Mousasi has won four straight fights, and all of them have been in impressive fashion. While Mousasi has shown to be quite well-rounded, this is strategically a striker versus grappler matchup. In a prolonged striking exchange, Weidman is going to struggle to land anything significant despite having the longer reach. Mousasi is very difficult to hit and should see some success as the fight wears on with his jab. In that type of fight, I see Mousasi winning a decision. Ultimately, what this fight comes down to is just how much success Weidman has in securing takedowns. He’s been able to take to the mat every single opponent he’s faced in the UFC, including former champion Luke Rockhold and Olympic wrestling silver medalist Yoel Romero. It’s hard to see Mousasi being able to stuff all of Weidman’s takedown attempts. In a round where Weidman can secure a takedown, he should be able to win that round on all three scorecards. The question then becomes can he do that in multiple rounds. He certainly is capable of that, but doing so will be very difficult. This is a tough fight to call because of the momentum of the two fighters and just how much Mousasi has improved over the last few years. I think Weidman can take one of the first two rounds, but this should be a competitive fight throughout, and he will struggle to take Mousasi down in round three as he starts to get tired. One thing I do like is for this fight to go the distance. This is a real step up in competition for Mousasi, and he will not be able to run through Weidman like previous opposition. On the flip side, outside of the loss to Jacare, Mousasi hasn’t been finished by an opponent since 2006. I expect this fight to go the distance (-155), which is a nice parlay piece with some of the heavier favorites on the undercard.
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