Gegard Mousasi fights Costas Philippou at Middleweight in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night: Edgar vs Faber on May 16, 2015 at the Mall of Asia Arenain Pasay City, Philippines.
Single sentence summary:
Phil: Armenia and Greece put aside their otherwise cordial diplomatic relations to throw down in the cage.
David: Two fighters from places casual fans consider interchangeable discriminate against one another in the cage with their fists.
Gegard “The Dreamcatcher” Mousasi
History lesson / introduction to the fighters
Phil: Wow, look at those odds. Anyway, once upon a time, Mousasi was the best fighter that no-one had heard of, the hipster’s P4P pick. After years and an impressive number of fights, his wandering road around the world of combat sports has finally levelled out somewhat, and he’s stabilized as one of the fighters in the bridging zone between the physical and technical elite of the division and everyone else, joining Tim Kennedy and Michael Bisping.
David: Forgot Mousasi was given so much esteem at one point. A near spotless record with a vicious upkick and a pure judo match with a then still in his prime Fedor are the best way to a hipster’s heart I guess. The weird thing is that the problems I always expected Mousasi to have weren’t necessarily what has hindered his potential. Yea, some guys have been able to take him down, but guys you wouldn’t expect to find success against him on the feet like Lawal and Souza have experienced a good degree of efficiency, which makes you wonder just what exactly held Mousasi back.
Phil: Costas Philippou has been something of an odd duck, difficult to get a real bead on. His first brush with the UFC started with a submission loss to Joseph Henle (who?) in the TUF elimination stage, but he went on to carve out a decent career where he’d follow a trend of beating every pure striker and losing to everyone with a semblance of offensive grappling. The standout performance which put him into the top ten was against Tim Boetsch, a somewhat dubious win where Boetsch was eyepoked, headbutted and suffered a broken hand before Philippou finished him off. In his last fight, I don’t think many were expecting Philippou to win, but to his credit he knocked Lorenz Larkin out in impressive fashion.
David: Philippou is one of those fighters who suffers a loss that seems so defining, you wonder how they could ever rebound from such a defeat. Like Hamill against Munoz, or Magny against Ricci. It’s hard not to be skeptical, but Costas has more or less moved beyond that, and become a sturdy bowling ball of bombastic brutality ever since.
What are the stakes?
Phil: It’s a keep-busy fight for Mousasi. Philippou has enough name value and violence banked that this makes for an acceptable match-up for the Armenian. The people above Mousasi are mostly booked to fight one another, and he’s lost to two of them in recent memory, so he’s going to need to pick up at least another Philippou-level win in order to get back in there with the big boys. If Philippou gets the upset, he probably finds himself where Mousasi is now, at the bridge just before the elite of the division, hoping no-one remembers what Rockhold did to him.
David: Yea not that high. I mean we’ve all seen that scene from Bloodsport where two guys who are anonymous but memorable for having cool fighting styles never substitute Frank Dux or Bolo Yeung in the finals. Now’s a good time to mention that The Quest is kind of underrated. For its time, it was its own throwback. Nowadays we have to settle for Van Damme getting pissed about someone taking his kidney and beating the shit out of them with a Bible for doing so. Wait…that actually sounds awesome.
Where do they want it?
Phil: Mousasi has two general places which he wants this fight. Far away, and on the ground. He’s one of the archetypal examples of fighting “long” rather than tall- he dips his head and keeps his shoulders forwards in order to maximize the distance that his jab travels, using small slips and built-in head movement rather than backing away and covering up to avoid strikes coming back at him. Philippou, conversely, is far more of an inside boxer. He punches moving forwards, using a his own jab to lead into combinations with the left hook and the right straight. Both men can kick, but particularly in the case of Philippou it’s normally used to force opponents into a position for punches.
The ground game is by far the biggest disparity between these two. Mousasi has an underrated double leg and an array of cunning trip takedowns. He has an active guard, and an absolutely punishing strike-pass-submission top game. Philippou is… not a good grappler.
David: The only problem with Mousasi here is that he still hasn’t quite figured out how he wants one skill to compliment the other. He’s got such a dynamic arsenal, and yet none of it ever seems fully realized, even when it’s happening in a vacuum.
But sure, he’s got plenty of skill. He’s just getting a little less interesting. Which still makes 90% of the other fighters less interesting. Mousasi’s best punch is his straight right though. He keeps himself in great range to land it, and he packs a mean punch. Philippou’s punches might be even meaner. The guy is an absolute bruiser. The amusing thing is that he can seem so harmless in defeat though. This speaks to his lack of well roundedness. His confidence never shines as bright as it could given his lack of ground game. I think he’s a good fighter for the reasons you mentioned, but I can’t help but think he’d never get a chance to knock out Larkin if he didn’t get away with Freddy Kruegering Tim Boetsch’s eye, meatball style.
Insight from past fights?
Phil: Philippou’s last win (over Larkin) and Mousasi’s last loss (Jacare) actually share some key similarities. Aside from Jacare’s takedown game, he essentially did what Philippou did to Larkin- he pushed Mousasi up against the fence, got inside his jab, and hurt him with combination punches. Mousasi does allow himself to get pushed backwards a great deal, including by Machida and even Ilir Latifi for certain portions of their fight.
However, Mousasi has also shown that he does have fundamental fight IQ. He reminds me a little of Josh Thomson, in that while his subtler tactical adjustments in fights are lacking (or nonexistent), he at least knows to grapple strikers and to strike with grapplers. This was most notable against Ovince St. Preux, a fight which Mousasi won almost entirely with his offensive wrestling game.
David: I’d add his bouts with Musashi and Kyotaro from K-1. It helps illuminate the things that exist in Mousasi’s game that can’t be unleashed due to his inability to adjust in ways that inspire urgency. When Mousasi is comfortable, and by that I mean not being threatened to fight his opponent’s fight, the rest of his offense gets oxygen. Even the prospect of having to do so seems to limit what he’s capable of. This is why he should destroy Philippou. He knows the only way Costas can win this fight.
Phil: Mousasi has been known to have little mental time-slips when he forgets where he is and upkicks “grounded” opponents. Philippou has a really marked tendency to paw with an open hand and stick his fingers in opponent’s eyes.
David: Between Mousasi’s lack of urgency, and Philippou’s switchblade romance with ocular manslaughter, the whole fight is an x-factor.
Phil: Even if this fight didn’t violate my beloved “no-man’s land” rule of thumb (don’t get trapped between two separate distances where you’re at a disadvantage), the Moose is simply the more skilled and diverse fighter. His tendency to trap himself against the cage means that he may give Philippou opportunities to get into the fight, but his colossal grappling advantages and as-yet uncracked chin mean that it’ll take something unprecedented for Philippou to actually win. Gegard Mousasi by submission, round 2.
David: To be fair, “unprecedented” could mean setting up combination punches with a finger to the eye, so who knows. Costas has a decent enough chance, even though I’m making it sound like he’s the worst offender of iris indiscretion. But Mousasi is beyond Costas’ ability. Gegard Mousasi by TKO (Van Damme style Bible Belting), round 1.
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