How good is Gegard Mousasi?
I can't say, which is why the ill-fated matchup with Alexander Gustafsson was so eagerly awaited. In Gustafsson, Mousasi would have fought one of the light heavyweight division's most talented prospects. A fighter who has proved himself against world-class opponents and has advantages of athleticism and height. This was the kind of contest doubters like me -- who aren't yet sold on a 27-year-old mixed martial artist who just finished his 10th year as a professional -- figured would resolve everything.
Instead, Mousasi agreed to fight a replacement who no one knew on less than a week's notice. And, it turned out, he did so on a knee that kept slipping out of place. In retrospect, the best thing that happened to Mousasi, who also fought a cold virus on fight night, was Gustafsson's gash, because in the condition he showed up in I have a hard time buying he could have been competitive. It's probably unfair to take much away from the fight with Ilir Latifi, but then again you can't help but wonder.
Mousasi has cultivated a following of fans who believe he's one of the best in MMA. I see the talent. I understand why his supporters think this way. But I'm not there yet because I've seen him struggle against opponents who want to wrestle. And I've seen him fade in fights. And I've seen him fight a cavalcade of mostly limited opposition.
Results matter most, and in spite of a terrific win-loss record it seems to me Mousasi has done the majority of his work against beatable opponents. His success against wrestlers isn't so terrific. His bouts against top-10 fighters are almost nonexistent. He has plodded against fighters he should've crushed. And I guess all of that makes me curious how good he really is.
Are we looking at the Octagon's next Hector Lombard, or someone capable of meeting the challenge against consistently dangerous opponents?
To be determined.