Gegard Mousasi believes he can position himself as the next contender to the middleweight title with a victory over Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza tonight at UFC Fight Night 50.
The former Strikeforce champion, though, isn’t going to boldly declare himself the No. 1 contender if he tops Souza for a second time in their careers.
“Definitely in the Top-3,” said Mousasi, during an interview with UFC Tonight. “Luke Rockhold is there. (Michael) Bisping is there, also, but people will think I challenge him if I say his name.
“Those are the guys coming off big wins and I think I’ll be right there.”
Mousasi (35-4-2) could have moved “right there” earlier this year when he was matched up with Lyoto Machida. The 29-year-old, though, suffered a decision loss. Machida went on to challenge Chris Weidman for the title this past July, falling via decision.
That loss snapped a eight-fight unbeaten streak that included seven wins and a draw since a 2010 defeat to Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal that cost Mousasi the Strikeforce light heavyweight title.
Back in 2008, Mousasi earned a knockout at DREAM 6 over Souza after landing an up-kick in the first round. That victory scored him the DREAM middleweight title as it was the conclusion to a Grand Prix.
“He’s a totally different fighter now,” Mousasi said. “He’s grown, he’s more confident and it’s a totally different fight. He’s a nice guy, but we have to fight now.
“I think he feels like he has a good chance to beat me, and he wants to get to the title.”
Souza (20-3) is on a six-fight win streak dating back to a loss to Rockhold for the Strikeforce middleweight title. Other than the Rockhold defeat and previous loss to Mousasi, Souza’s only other “L” came in his 2003 debut to Jorge Patino.