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Why Khabib Nurmagomedov phone calls Bellator’s Gegard Mousasi ‘the most underrated fighter in MMA’


Gegard Mousasi place on a dazzling clearly show four months in the past in Dublin. That it was not an epic-duration functionality produced it all the a lot more magnificent. The Bellator MMA middleweight winner needed considerably less than a minute and a 50 percent to lay waste to an undefeated challenger in the Bellator 275 main party.

Austin Vanderford, to his credit history (and ultimate demise), went on the offensive that night time at 3Arena, closing the length correct from the start out and winging big punches. But Mousasi had answers for every little thing thrown at him, and those responses practically right away overcome Vanderford. Yet as quickly as the battle surged towards its TKO summary at 1:25 of Spherical 1, Mousasi was not at all in a hurry. Calm effectiveness is a hallmark of the 36-year-old Dutchman’s two-10 years occupation, and when all over again that virtue gained him the evening.

It also attained the small-key champion a rave critique from just one of the optimum-profile figures in the activity.

“[Mousasi] is the most underrated fighter in MMA currently,” retired previous UFC lightweight winner Khabib Nurmagomedov tweeted that night.

Mousasi (49-7-2) has an opportunity to stay up to the accolade when he headlines Bellator 282 at Mohegan Solar Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, on Friday (9 p.m. ET on Showtime, prelims at 6 p.m. on the Bellator YouTube web site). His challenger this time is another wrestling-large undefeated fighter, Johnny Eblen, who like Vanderford trains at the American Major Workforce health and fitness center in South Florida.

Mousasi is using a four-struggle profitable streak and has won 12 of his earlier 13 fights, extending back again to his time in the UFC. And to a pair of the fighters who’ve confronted him for the duration of that operate, the Nurmagomedov endorsement extremely much rings correct.

“No person thinks in what he can do, because his approach is really standard, nothing at all flashy,” mentioned previous UFC light heavyweight champ Lyoto Machida, who has confronted Mousasi 2 times, profitable a unanimous choice in a 2014 UFC bout and shedding a split verdict in 2019 in the Bellator cage. “But it will not subject if he won’t kick as substantial as anyone else, or he doesn’t do soar knees. That will not matter. What issues is that he is fantastic in all places, so perfectly-rounded and so serene. He can battle any individual and has fought every person, and he wins.”

Mousasi owns victories in excess of a very long list of championship-stage fighters, from Dan Henderson to Vitor Belfort, Chris Weidman to Rory MacDonald, Machida to Douglas Lima. Mousasi is in his second reign in Bellator and previously was a champ in three other struggle organizations, including Strikeforce.

“He surely need to be on the record of the most effective fighters that ever lived,” said Lima, a previous Bellator welterweight champ, who misplaced to Mousasi in 2020 in a bid for the 185-pound belt. “The dude has been preventing major competitors his complete lifetime. Didn’t he defeat Mark Hunt at heavyweight, a thing like that?”

Of course, he did. Competing against the 265-pound “Tremendous Samoan” in an aptly named 2009 tournament in the Dream marketing, the Tremendous Hulk Grand Prix, Mousasi pulled off a 1st-spherical straight armbar submission.

But the checklist of accolades is basically that to Mousasi — a list. It really is not what issues to him.

“I really don’t give a f— about belts,” Mousasi said after his February title protection. “I’m in this article to make funds.”

That narrow, workmanlike concentrate may well have a little something to do with why he’s been chronically underrated. Mousasi has created a job of saying little in the buildup to a struggle and, just after accomplishing what he does finest inside the cage or ring, just collecting his check out and likely residence.

“Mousasi is like Fedor Emelianenko, really peaceful, not much speak,” Machida claimed, referring to the stoic Russian heavyweight legend. “It holds him again a minor, in conditions of promotion, but at the conclusion of the working day, as a martial artist, he has the skill to get the final result he’s right after. So what can individuals say about him?”

Uncharacteristically, Mousasi did have anything to say about himself right just after his vanquishing of Vanderford. “I come to feel like I’m the best middleweight in the entire world correct now,” Mousasi advised reporters. “I under no circumstances stated that [before] simply because I by no means imagined I was the greatest.”

That’s bold bravado for somebody who competes at the identical bodyweight as UFC winner Israel Adesanya. And but Mousasi, even whilst earning a scenario for himself, recognizes that in a activity whose many promotions function in independent silos with exceptional crossovers, putting out an view about a body weight classes’ pecking purchase is like taking part in fantasy sports. “Talking about it,” he stated, “is like conversing about how I want to be Santa Claus.”

Mousasi’s four decades in the UFC arrived ahead of Adesanya experienced at any time entered the Octagon. When Mousasi knocked out Weidman with a knee to the head in 2017, it was his fifth straight acquire, four of them finishes. He was No. 4 in the UFC’s official middleweight rankings, and he imagined he was future in line to problem then-champ Michael Bisping. But the UFC gave the title shot to Robert Whittaker in its place.

So it was off to Bellator for Mousasi, who in a lot less than a calendar year was winner. And not conversing significantly about it.

“We’ve acquired fellas in this activity who converse a lot but are not even that good, but men and women understand their names and they’re the ones who get to struggle for titles and massive money,” Lima stated. “And then there’s a guy like Mousasi, who does his chatting in the cage with his punches and kicks. His command of distance, his timing, his calmness, his aggression, his takedown protection, his jiu-jitsu — all of that helps make him a really hard man to battle. He trains challenging, I know, but he will make it glance like a wander in the park. I would like folks respected that much more.”

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