When UFC president Dana White tweeted that Ilir Latifa (sic) was replacing a lightly injured Alexander Gustafsson vs. Gegard Mousasi at UFC on Fuel 9, the sport came together and responded as one: "Who?"
However, one notable figurewas quite familiar with the Sweden-based fighter - Rashad Evans had sparred and worked with Latifi in the past.
"One of the biggest things is that he's super strong. He's very strong and very explosive and he's a good wrestler," said Evans. "He has pretty good stand-up as far as he hits pretty hard, and so he's not so technical in the striking, but he's a powerful striker."
"It's very tough because it takes your body some time to actually peak to get ready to compete. Especially the way we compete and the level we compete at it's not something you take on short notice if you've got an opportunity to. So for him stepping in on three days notice, it's definitely tough. He has a huge upside and the upside definitely outweighs the downside."
"That really is the biggest thing of this whole fight is this whole story. Here you've got this guy Gegard trying to make his debut in the UFC, and he's been having so much steam coming over from the other organization and then to have a chance to fight a top guy like Gustafsson and then having to fight somebody completely different. Completely different strengths all together. Not only that but (Latifi) is 5' 8" and he's got totally different strengths. He's a wrestler, he's going to try to take you down and he's tough. He's a tough unknown guy.
"Now if he goes out there and has a hard fight with a tough, unknown guy now it looks like he's not on the level, he shouldn't really be in the UFC anyways. He's in a no-win situation. The only thing that can save this for him is to have a complete, dominating performance the whole fight. He's in a tough position, I don't envy Mousasi at all."
"It has the biggest recipe for disaster written all over it. At the same time, you've got to take your hat off to Mousasi who says 'I'm going to fight this guy, I'm going to keep this show going and I'm going to fight this guy.' It's a big huge risk to fight a tough, unknown kid like Latifi. I'm telling you this kid is tough."
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