It took patience and precision for Mousasi to get the better of the former UFC champion over three hard fought rounds with two judges scoring the fight in his favor 29-28 and 30-27, with the third official giving the fight to Machida by a score of 29-28. Still, two judges were all he needed as Mousasi got the win while bouncing back from a title fight loss in his last fight against Rafael Lovato Jr.
“I had to fight this way, I couldn’t take a lot of risks,” Mousasi said about his performance on Saturday night. “I had to fight like this.”
Mousasi refused to play into Machida’s game all night long while picking his shots and forcing the Brazilian to move forward on him. The former middleweight champion landed the first hard shot of the fight with a quick right hand that clipped Machida and wobbled him for a brief second before he got his feet back under him.
Mousasi was selective with his combinations rather than chasing Machida, which is usually when the Brazilian makes his opponents pay. It was clear Mousasi wasn’t going to make it easy for Machida to hit him, attempting to make him pay every time he stepped forward.
The bursts of aggression continued to pay dividends for Mousasi, because Machida was struggling to really find his timing and do much more than launch a few kicks from the outside while desperately trying to find an opening. In return, Mousasi would wait for the right moment, then explode forward with a barrage of punches that put Machida on his back foot.
With less than a minute remaining in the second round, Machida finally started to unleash his offensive weapons but Mousasi was more than happy to stand toe-to-toe with him.
Perhaps knowing the judges’ scorecards could get involved, Machida took the center of the cage in the final five minutes, trying to chip away at Mousasi. The exchanges were fairly even until Machida uncorked a head kick that left him off balance, which allowed Mousasi to lunge forward to land a well-timed takedown.
Mousasi was content with his top control while peppering away at Machida with short punches to the head and body. Machida did manage a late guillotine choke attempt that caught Mousasi off guard but he ran out of time before he could really threaten with the submission.
While it wasn’t the most action-packed affair in recent memory, Mousasi knew what had to be done if he wanted to earn the victory over Machida, which is exactly what he accomplished. Now with the win at Bellator 228, Mousasi is turning his attention back to reclaiming the middleweight title in his next fight.
“It’s going to be Lovato next fight,” Mousasi said. “100 percent.”