UFC on FUEL TV 9 preview: Four burning questions going into 'Mousasi vs Latifi' in Sweden


Every time UFC puts on an event, speculation, questions and theories emerge about which fighters will perform ... or underperform. Will new contenders emerge? Will established ones fall? Where will the winners go? Which losers will still have a job on Monday? Who is healthy? Who is fighting injured? Anytime UFC athletes are set to enter the Octagon, questions swirl.

This Saturday afternoon (April 6, 2013), the Octagon returns to Sweden for just the second time in history with a free television event when UFC on FUEL TV 9: "Mousasi vs. Latifi" goes down at Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm.

An Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight contest receives top billing at the international mixed martial arts (MMA) event, as Sweden's own Ilir Latifi steps in for injured teammate Alexander Gustafsson on just a few days notice against former Strikeforce 205-pound champion Gegard Mousasi.

There are several interesting storylines to follow going into and coming out of the event, but only four can make the "burning" list.

That being said, here are four burning questions going into UFC on FUEL TV 9: "Mousasi vs. Latifi" this weekend:

4. Can Gegard Mousasi Start His UFC Career Off On The Right Foot?
Dutch light heavyweight Gegard Mousasi is one of the few MMA fighters in the game today who have put together a resume worthy of a Top 10 spot in his weight class despite fighting outside the UFC.

"The Dream Catcher" has 38 fights of professional experience under his belt and at just 27 years of age, is leaps and bounds ahead of other fighters his age in terms of skill.

Still, though, Mousasi has much work to do before being a contender under the UFC banner, especially now that he is in a lose-lose situation after going from facing the world's No. 3-ranked 205-pound fighter in Alexander Gustafsson to an essential no-name in Ilir Latifi.

The former Strikeforce and Dream champion is a finisher who has stopped his opponent inside the distance in 29 of his 33 career victories, holding professional wins over the likes of Denis Kang, Ronaldo Souza, Mark Hunt and Mike Kyle.

Fans have clamored to see Mousasi in the UFC for some time now, and there's a reason.

Not many fighters get the opportunity to fight in the main event in their UFC debut, now it's up to him to prove if he deserves to be there.

3. Which Bantamweight Contender Will Get Back On Track?
Two of the world's top-ranked 135-pound fighters will clash on the UFC on FUEL TV 9 main card when Brad Pickett takes on Mike Easton in a significant fight for the Bantamweight division.

Despite coming off disappointing losses, both men sit in the Top 10 of their weight class according to the official UFC rankings, which means fans should expect a fight of the highest quality.

Pickett was nearing a title shot toward the end of 2012, but a loss to Eddie Wineland sent him back to the drawing board. UFC President Dana White has admitted "One Punch" is one of his favorite fighters to watch, and with his style it's no surprise; however, the Brit needs to rack up wins.

Easton also had a lot of momentum going in the division before losing a decision to Raphael Assuncao at UFC on FOX 5, snapping an eight-fight unbeaten streak for "The Beast."

Saturday's match up is a critical one for both Pickett and Easton. While they are some of the best at their weight class, no Top 10 fighter can afford going on a two-fight skid, which is what on the line for these bantamweights.

2. Who is Conor McGregor?
Few fighters in MMA are able to generate excitement for a UFC debut on the Facebook "Prelims" portion of a FUEL TV card; however, that's exactly what the UFC's first-ever Irish fighter Conor McGregor has done ahead of his Octagon debut this Saturday against Marcus Brimage.

From his highly entertaining interview with Ariel Helwani on "The MMA Hour" (watch it here) to his documentary on MTV (watch it here), McGregor is proving to be as unique of a personality as the sport has.

The question is, can he back it up inside the Octagon?

McGregor has spent his entire 14-fight MMA career fighting on the European circuit and as everyone knows, the UFC is another level of competition.

The 24-year-old held both the Lightweight and Featherweight belts under the Gladiator Challenge banner and in all his victories has knocked out or submitted his opponent.

Never before has the UFC had a purely Irish fighter step into the Octagon, and McGregor will happily be the first. If his personality and fight style live up to expectations, you will be seeing much more of "Notorious" in the future.

1. Can Ilir Latifi Pull Off The Upset?
There have been many upsets in the MMA world over the years, but should he win on Saturday, Ilir Latifi defeating Gegard Mousasi on four days notice in the UFC on FUEL TV 9 main event would be near the top of the list.

Latifi was granted the opportunity to fight Mousasi after teammate Alexander Gustafsson did not receive medical clearance to compete at the event from the Swedish Mixed Martial Arts Federation (SMMAF) because of a cut above the eyebrow (see pic here).

With the UFC scrambling to find a replacement, "The Sledge Hammer" pounced on the opportunity and in his home country of Sweden has the chance to pull off a monumental upset.

The 29-year-old truly has nothing to lose against Mousasi, which makes him an extremely dangerous opponent. Stranger things have happened, and If Latifi can put it together inside the cage, there could be a new name to keep an eye out for the in the UFC light heavyweight division.

Can Latifi pull it off?

Tune in to UFC on FUEL TV 9: "Mousasi vs. Latifi" this Saturday at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT, only on FUEL TV to find out all the answers to these questions and more.

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