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Gegard Mousasi: Catching the Dream

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Back in the middle part of the 2000’s, when Japanese mixed martial arts was entering its twilight years, hardcore fight fans were talking about a Dutch fighter taking Japan by storm. His demeanor was stoic. He was lanky and thin but when the bell rung he was ruthless. He even has one of the coolest monikers in the sport: the Dreamcatcher. An enigma and a prodigy. He is Gegard Mousasi

Journey to the Dream

Gegard Mousasi is a martial arts prodigy. Even before cross-discipline training became a trend, Mousasi was doing it just as a hobby. “I love martial arts. It thought me discipline. I can’t wait for school to end just so I go to the gym,” he recalled with a smile on his face.

At the young age of eight, Gegard was already training in the art of judo, and through his teenage years, transitioned to boxing. A year later, he fought in the amateur boxing scene and compiled a 12-1 record. After seven years, he then moved on to take kickboxing, the biggest martial art in the Netherlands. As the years went by, the thirst for competition made Mousasi transition into mixed martial arts.

“The Dreamcatcher” took Japan by storm in 2008. At the young age of 22, Mousasi rapidly rose to the top of the MMA scene. In the now defunct DREAM promotion, he breezed through the promotion’s middleweight gran prix and finished all his opponents in two rounds or less. His victims was a murderer’s row that included Denis Kang, Melvin Manhoef, and Ronaldo Souza. Moreover, he also fought in the kickboxing promotion, K-1, and defeated Japanese kickboxing legend Musashi to further gain the respect of the martial arts community.

Japan also gave him the opportunity to know and train MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko, one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time. “It was a good experience since he’s a good guy and he’s a really great fighter. He thought me a lot of stuff like Sambo, also the way to fight, and represent myself outside the cage.”

Dream Halted

In 2009, Gegard Mousasi was signed by an American promotion, Strikeforce, and eventually won the promotion’s Light Heavyweight championship in his debut match. Everything was going well for the Dutch-Iranian fighter and compiled a record of 28-2-1. But in the United States, having a wrestling base was the most important facet in the game. During Strikeforce’s biggest show in Nashville, Tennessee last 2010, former NCAA division 1 champion “King” Muhammad Lawal exposed the lack of wrestling defense of Mousasi. Mousasi was devastated after the loss. “Since the King Mo loss, I’ve changed a lot wrestling. But overall, I’ve been changing a lot, changing a whole lot leading to more losses. I went to my roots after and trained like I’ve been training before.”

"The Dreamcatcher" Gegard Mousasi

“The Dreamcatcher” Gegard Mousasi

Instead of sulking, Mousasi trained harder than ever. Even winning another championship in Japan, the DREAM Light Heavyweight championship to become a two-division champion, a rare feat in MMA. “[As a result of that loss] I know MMA better now. I’ve transitioned to more ground, wrestling [take downs], I know better now than when I fought King Mo. I’m more experienced now, I’m smarter.” Eventually, Mousasi again went through the MMA circuit and won seven of his eight fights with one ending in a controversial draw.

Recapturing the Dream

After years of failed negotiations and at the latter months of 2013, the world’s biggest MMA promotion the UFC finally signed the Dreamcatcher. Mousasi, before entering the UFC, vowed never to make middleweight unless he was going against Anderson Silva. But logically, it did not make sense when Mousasi thought about it, “The weight difference was still too big. I was not cutting a lot of weight to 205 and the guys were much bigger in the UFC. And the level was so much higher at light heavyweight, I should not give advantage to my opponents. Middleweight is much suited for me and I’m gonna continue as middleweight.”

Even in compiling a 3-2 record in the UFC, Gegard is still one of the most feared fighters in the middleweight division. His opponent for UFC Fight Night Manila, Costas Philippou, told us that “he is very dangerous because he is a veteran.” Even at a relatively young age of 29, he is considered as one of the most veteran fighters in the division, especially with his 36-5-2 record. However for Mousasi, and just like for everyone else, the toll of fighting is already taking its effect on his body. “I have more injuries now here and there. Something swells up, I did not have that when I was younger, you feel it,” the former multi-division MMA champion said laughingly.

Garnering 43 fights into his career, Gegard Mousasi has not lost the competitive fire he had when he was a kid. He knows what he wants right now and is ready to take it. “At the end of one’s career sometimes people climb down but I feel like I was climbing down a little bit. [But still entering the prime of his career] I still think I can switch to go one more time up and peak again. Some fighters like Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson, when their career is not going so well, changed division and went up. Like Vitor Belfort was a guy who did it. I feel like I’m gonna do that. Just have a good couple of years and be dominant again.”

Moreover, outside the cage, the Dutch fighter, even at a young age, is already ready for life outside the Octagon. “I’m ready for it. I invest my money for my family. I bought buildings, apartments to have it rented so money is no big deal, not a problem.”

Truly, at the age of 29, Gegard Mousasi has matured, not only as fighter, but also as a person. Talent will only get you by for so long but with discipline and hard work it can lead you to the farthest possibilities. “The Dreamcatcher” has realized this and will look to catch his dream of going back to the top of the mountain starting with Costas Philippou come Saturday night.


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Basketball

After getting first D-League experience, Zark’s-Lyceum ready to get loose

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After a hesitant performance in their PBA D-League debut last Thursday that resulted in a loss to the Marinerong Pilipino Skippers, the Zark’s Burger-Lyceum Jawbreakers seemingly caught up with the league’s style of play on Tuesday.

Zark’s-Lyceum displayed their true form and stamped their class all over the Batangas-EAC Generals with a 37-point destruction, 112-75 — so far the biggest winning margin the franchise has ever had in its D-League history.

“Medyo adjusted na kami on everything — the calls and the teams we’re playing against with,” said Zark’s-Lyceum head coach Topex Robinson after the match at Pasig Sports Center. “But the things we want to mind are those things we control.

“We just have to keep on doing what we are doing. It’s more on replenishing na lang on our old ways.”

Robinson’s claim was strongly backed up by the numbers that the Jawbreakers produced.

CJ Perez had 21 points and 10 rebounds. MJ Ayaay produced 15 points and 10 boards, and Mike Nzeusseu delivered 14 markers and 11 boards.

Even the bench made their presence felt in the victory. With guard Jaycee Marcelino spearheading the supporting cast’s charge with 12 markers, the bench contributed a remarkable 56 points to their total output.

Photo by PBA Images

“Ano lang, cinontrol lang namin yung pace kasi yun naman talaga yung laro namin, yung mabilisan,” said the 24-year-old do-it-all forward, who also collected three steals.

“Kailangan talaga mabilisan para ma-execute namin yung mga ginagawa namin.”

This week will be a rough one for the Pirates, as they will play right away this Thursday against the AMA Online Education. And for Perez, he strongly believes that they will be able to carry over their momentum.

“Oo. Nandun pa. Energy talaga yung puhunan namin para makalaro ng maayos.”

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Basketball

Bonbon Batiller shows what he can bring to Letran in D-League debut

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Photo by PBA Images

Tuesday proved to be a double debut for Bonbon Batiller. Aside from beginning his first foray in the PBA D-League, it also marked his debut for the Letran Knights, who are carrying the Wang’s Basketball Couriers franchise.

And the 5-foot-11 guard showed what he can bring to the table. Batiller collected 15 points, five rebounds, and three assists to help the Knights raise the curtains of their campaign with a 93-75 rout of the Batangas-EAC Generals.

“Nagworkout yung pinagpraktisan namin,” said Batiller. “Nagbunga rin yung tinuro samin ni Coach Jeff (Napa) lalo sa depensa. Tsaka siguro sa rebounds — laking lamang namin sa rebound. Nagsipag mga bigs namin.”

But what has him even more satisfied is the warm reception and trust he’s had from the Knights, even if he has spent barely a year with them after transferring from University of the East last 2017.

“Masaya po kasi tinanggap nila ako sa Letran ng buong-buo,” said Batiller, who normed 10.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.6 steals with UE in two years. “Tsaka yung tiwala nila na makakatulong ako sa team nandoon.

“Kaya masaya ako sa pinakita nila sa akin.”

That is why the General Santos native is hard-pressed to prove himself to Letran, saying that he’s all about giving back to the school that gave him another opportunity to resume his young, up-and-coming basketball career.

“Kailangan kong may mapatunayan na deserving ako sa binigay na second chance sa akin ni Letran,” said Batiller, who decided to switch schools partly due to academic reasons.

“Malaki ang utang ko sa Letran.”

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Football

Bienvenido Maranon scores brace as Ceres-Negros eliminates Brisbane Roar

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Photo from the-AFC.com

Philippine club football just achieved its biggest continental result yet

The inaugural Philippines Football League champions Ceres-Negros Football Club eliminated three-time Australian champions Brisbane Roar in the 2018 AFC Champions League’s second preliminary round with a 3-2 stunner, away at the QSAC Stadium in Brisbane.

With the win, the 2017 AFC Cup ASEAN Zonal Champions are set to face Chinese Super League club Tianjin Quanjian next January 30, 2018 at the Haihe Educational Football Stadium in Tianjin, China, to book a seat in the group stages.

Brisbane were the favorites for this tie and it showed, as Ceres started the contest on the back foot. Italian striker Massimo Maccarone handed the home side the lead in the 35th minute when he turned in Brett Holman’s pass.

Maccarone’s goal could have lowered the Busmen’s moral, but Risto Vidakovic’s men took it as a motivation rather than a downer. In fact, Ceres replied in the best way possible when Bienvenido Maranon scored his first goal of the match two minutes from halftime, thanks to a scramble in the Brisbane box.

By all accounts, Ceres had already made Philippine football proud at halftime. By this stage last year, Brisbane had accrued a 4-0 halftime cushion against Global Cebu en route to a 6-0 rout.

Today, though, Brisbane faced tougher resistance at Ceres’ hands. That resistance turned into a full-fledged revolt in the 65th minute when Maranon directed the ball past a helpless Jamie Young to give the Busmen their first taste of the lead.

Maranon’s goal well and truly turned the tide in Ceres’ favor. Brisbane were stunned. The home side are the defending A-League champions, but are currently eighth in the table this season and would soon face elimination from Asia’s premier club competition.

Already up 2-1, the Busmen finally achieved some breathing room in the 75th minute when Omid Nazari scored from close range to give Ceres a two-goal cushion over Brisbane.

Nazari’s goal not only sealed the win for Ceres, it also propelled Philippine football into the big leagues. Not even a late goal from French midfielder Éric Bauthéac could prevent the Busmen’s victory.

After five minutes of stoppage time, Ceres emerged 3-2 winners against Brisbane Roar. Come what may against Tianjin seven days from now, the Busmen have already achieved Philippine football’s biggest result since their own achievement in last season’s AFC Cup.

Who knows? Maybe Ceres can pull off another upset?

Ceres-Negros XI: Doblas (GK), Super, Mike Ott, Ingreso, Maranon, Porteria, Schrock, De Murga (C), Munoz, Nazari, Christaens.

Brisbane Roar XI: Ingham, Bowles, Papadopoulos, Maccarone, Holman, Khalfallah, Oxborrow, McKay (C), Hingert, Young (GK), Franjic.

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EAC

CJ Perez, Zark’s-Lyceum vent ire on Batangas-EAC with 37-point romp

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Photo by PBA Images

CJ Perez and the Zark’s Burger-Lyceum Jawbreakers finally lived up to their hype, as they clobbered the Batangas-EAC Generals to score a 37-point beatdown, 112-75 for their first win, Tuesday at the Pasig Sports Center.

It was an all-out attack from the Jawbreakers, as they beat the Generals to the bite and took control of the game early, with Mike Nzeusseu and Jaycee Marcelino guiding their side to the 48-33 lead at halftime which they would never surrender.

Perez paced Zark’s Burger-Lyceum with 21 points and 10 rebounds, while MJ Ayaay tallied a double-double with his 15 markers, 10 boards, and three assists.

Cameroonian student-athlete Nzeusseu also delivered 14 points, 11 rebounds, and two assists. Marcelino had eight first half points and wound up with 12 off the bench, as the reserves chipped in 56 huge points in the tussle.

Coach Topex Robinson lauded the Jawbreakers for quickly adjusting to the style of the PBA D-League just days after falling to the Marinerong Pilipino, 92-94, back in opening day.

“Medyo adjusted na kami on everything — the calls and the teams were playing against with. But the things we want to mind are those things we control. We just have to keep on doing what we are doing. It’s more on replenishing na lang on our old ways,” he said.

Earvin Mendoza and Cedric de Joya both had 16 points for the Generals in the losing effort.

Zark’s-Lyceum look to continue to roll when they face the AMA Online Education Titans on Thursday, January 25. EAC-Batangas, on the other hand, take on the Gamboa-St. Clare Coffee Lovers on Monday, January 29.

The Scores:

Zark’s-Lyceum 112 — Perez 21, Ayaay 15, Nzeusseu 14, Jc. Marcelino 12, Serrano 10, Baltazar 8, Santos 8, Jv. Marcelino 6, Tansingco 6, Marata 4, Liwag 4, Ibañez 2, Cinco 2, Pretta 0.

Batangas-EAC 75 — E. Mendoza 16, De Joya 16, Tampoc 12, Laude 9, Pate 8, Maguliano 6, Altamirano 5, Diego 3, Garcia 0, Dela Peña 0, Martin 0, J. Mendoza 0, Neri 0.

Quarterscores: 19-14, 48-33, 84-47, 112-75.

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