Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) held an event in Sweden for the second time in its history on Saturday (April 6, 2013) as UFC on FUEL TV 9: "Mousasi vs. Latifi" went down from the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm.
Former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi successfully defeated last-minute replacement Ilir Latifi by unanimous decision in the main event of his debut fight with the organization after his original opponent Alexander Gustafsson was pulled from the card just days before the event because of a laceration above the left eye.
In a sport like mixed martial arts (MMA), each bout can only have one winner and one loser. Earning a victory inside the world-famous Octagon is the highest of highs while suffering a defeat in front of millions of viewers can be the lowest of lows.
Every competitor who steps foot in the cage is looking for that moment of glory. Some capture it, others don't.
There were several shining stars on the UFC on FUEL TV 9 fight card as well as an equal amount of disappointments. With that said, it's time to name the biggest winner and biggest loser from the event in Sweden.
The Biggest Winner
Brad Pickett rebounded from a high-stakes loss to Eddie Wineland at UFC 155 last December with a strong showing against fellow top-10 bantamweight Mike Easton in one of the featured bouts on the UFC on FUEL TV 9 fight card.
Pickett lost out on his opportunity to compete for the interim bantamweight title in a crushing defeat to Wineland; however, he displayed his true character to the world by getting back into the win column against an extremely tough opponent in Easton.
The most impressive aspect of Pickett's split decision victory was by far his wrestling --both offensive and defensive. British MMA fighters are notoriously weak in the wrestling department, but not Pickett. "One Punch" was not only able to stuff or get up from Easton's takedown attempts; he also became the first person to ever score a takedown on "The Hulk" in the UFC.
Pickett is proving to be one of the most reliable fighters on the UFC roster in terms of producing exciting fights as he has earned yet another ‘Fight of the Night' bonus and has earned post-fight bonus in four of his five UFC appearances.
Despite suffering the setback to Wineland last year, Pickett proved he is still a top contender in the bantamweight division and more big fights are in store for the Brit.
Conor McGregor's essentially flawless performance in his UFC debut against Marcus Brimage lived up to all the hype surrounding the Irishman and more.
Of the five fighters on the card to earn their first UFC victory, "Notorious" put together by far the most impressive performance by finishing Brimage via technical knockout in a mere 67 seconds. McGregor's striking game was on point from the opening bell, as he never allowed himself to get flustered by Brimage's aggression and boded his time until he dropped "The Bama Beast" with a series of pinpoint strikes and finished the fight.
Due to his charismatic personality and obvious fighting skills, the 24-year-old is already beloved by UFC fans around the globe and his popularity is only going to increase with performances like the one he put on against Brimage.
The UFC has been looking for a reason to return to Ireland and with McGregor they may very well have just found it.
Gegard Mousasi may get some criticism for not being able to finish late replacement Ilir Latifi, but this writer is willing to give him a bye for the lackluster performance in Sweden.
If anything, Mousasi should be commended for fighting an unknown opponent on four days notice after Alexander Gustafsson dropped off the card due to a cut. Moreover, "The Dreamcatcher" revealed after the fight he competed with an injured knee and cold that hindered his performance.
Even with all that, the 27-year-old dominated the fight and won all three rounds with a stand-up attack that revolved around a very crisp jab. At the end of the day, Mousasi got the job done in his UFC debut and with one of the most hectic weeks of his life behind him can finally move on to bigger and better things.
The Biggest Loser
Ryan Couture looked completely out of his depth against Ross Pearson in the co-main event and was on the wrong end of a second-round technical knockout at the hands and feet of "The Real Deal."
The son of former UFC heavyweight and light heavyweight champion Randy Couture was making his UFC debut at the event against a much more experienced opponent in what many believed was a lopsided match up. It played out that way as Couture was stopped with an onslaught of strikes for the first TKO loss of his career.
With only eight professional fights under his belt, Couture has lots of room to grow going forward; however, his current set of skills is going to make it difficult to rack up wins at the UFC level.
Assuming the UFC gives him another fight, Couture is going to need a much better showing next time he competes if he wants to continue to fight in the world's premier MMA organization.
Phil De Fries suffered a humiliating 19-second knockout loss to Matt Mitrione on the main card and is now likely on his way out of the UFC.
The British fighter is 2-3 under the UFC banner and has been knocked out early in the first round in each of those defeats. Also, the two men he holds UFC wins over are no longer with the organization, a combination that is never good for a fighter in the lower tear of any UFC weight class.
After his performance in Sweden it would be very surprising to see De Fries back in the UFC for another fight. That said, the thin nature of the heavyweight division might be his saving grace.
Robbie Peralta was significantly favored to defeat Akira Corassani in the opening bout of the FUEL TV broadcast but could not get the job done. "Problems" was viewed as a potential threat to the other contenders in the Featherweight division after an impressive showing in his last fight; however, he looked unlike the aggressive, high-paced fighter fans have seen so far in his UFC stint.
Aside from one moment in the second round where he hurt Corassani, the 27-year-old looked flat against Corassani and at the UFC level no one can afford to have an off night.
Unlike Couture and De Fries, the defeat did not put Peralta's job in jeopardy, but he will need a much better showing in his next fight if he hopes to having a long-term future in the UFC.
Who were your biggest winner and loser from UFC on FUEL TV 9? Let us know in the comments in the comment section below.