Shortly after his win over Mark Munoz last May 31, Gegard Mousasi said that he wanted a “winner” for his next fight. He mentioned #5 Luke Rockhold and #6 Tim Kennedy. Apparently the UFC was listening, and set him up for match with a higher ranked winner: #4 Jacare Souza.

Climbing Up the Ladder

The Armenian-born Dutch mixed martial artist has fought just three matches in the UFC and has a record of 2-1 with 1 submission. Mousasi moved to the middleweight division after his first UFC bout and faced Lyoto Machida. He lot via unanimous decision in a Fight of the Night winner. But Mousasi rebounded with a submission win over Filipino Mark Munoz last month to climb up the middleweight rankings at number 7. And while Mousasi felt the rise in his stock following the win over Munoz, he made the reasonable statement to fight a “winner” to get him closer to the top.

With #1 Anderson Silva out with injury, #2 Vitor Belfort having a cancelled bout and #3 Lyoto Machida challenging for the title, the number four guy was the best he could get. And that’s what he just got, even after just a 1-1 record in two fights at the UFC middleweight division.

But he is no stranger in the MMA world as Mousasi was the former and last Strikeforce Light Heavyweight champion. In 2010, Mousasi won the DREAM Light Heavyweight GP Final to  become the DREAM Light Heavyweight champion . In 2008, Mousasi also won the inaugural DREAM Middleweight title, where he defeated Jacare Souza in the finals.

Mousasi and Souza campaigned in Japan a long time ago in the DREAM promotion. Their paths crossed on September 23, 2008 in the DREAM 2008 Middleweight GP Final. After winning their semi-final matches with one round submissions, both men immediately squared off for in the finals.  The submission expert Souza took Mousasi down early in the fight, but Mousasi struck Souza with an upkick that knocked out the Brazilian. Mousasi won the first ever DREAM middleweight belt and sent Souza packing to Strikeforce.

Alligator’s Den

The move to Stirkeforce was the break Souza had always wanted. Souza won the Stirkeforce Middleweight title in his third bout when he beat Tim Kennedy in August 2010. And although he lost the belt to Luke Rockhold is his second title defense, Souza whose nickname Jacare means alligator, had turned the Strikeforce Middleweight division into the Alligator’s Den by dominating with a record of 7-1 with 4 submissions and 1 KO.

Souza was among the holdovers brought in by the UFC when it purchased Strikeforce. In three fights at the UFC, Souza has clapped his way to impressive wins over Chris Camozzi, Yushin Okami and Francis Carmont.  Although he admits that Mousasi was “better” when they first fought he thinks that he has more experience and a better cardio this time around. Souza believes that a title shot is the “only option” after the Mousasi rematch.

Back in Strikeforce, they gave Mousasi the nickname “Dreamcatcher”. Gegard told them he did not want a nickname but the outfit gave it to him anyway. Most fans thought it was lame and did not fit a tough guy like Mousasi. But the Dreamcatcher was woven by the Native Americans to trap bad dreams in its web and let the good ones go to the head of the sleeper. As Mousasi is climbing the ladder as a winner in the UFC, maybe he’d like to be the Dreamcatcher now. So he can catch the dream of winning the UFC middleweight title very soon.

And that starts with beating Jacare Souza again in UFC 176 on August 2.

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