History will be made this weekend (April 6, 2013) as The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season nine winner Ross Pearson takes on Ryan Couture in the co-main event of UFC on Fuel TV 9 in Stockholm, Sweden.
Pearson had an unsuccessful run as a featherweight but made a big splash back to 155 pounds by knocking out former top contender and rival George Sotiropoulos in the main event of UFC on FX 6 late last year. He'll be trying to make a statement against Couture and his legacy this weekend.
Ryan Couture is the first son of a UFC fighter to make an appearance inside the Octagon. He more than earned his way by taking on a list of tough opposition to close out his Strikeforce career, where he won six of seven fights. He's not getting anything easy in his UFC debut, but he was more than willing to accept a tall task.
Record: 14-6 overall, 6-3 in the UFC
Key Wins: Dennis Siver (UFC Fight Night 21), George Sotiropoulos (UFC on FX 6), Spencer Fisher (UFC 127)
Key Losses: Cub Swanson (UFC on FX 4), Edson Barboza (UFC 134), Cole Miller (UFC Fight Night 22)
How he got here: Ross Pearson infamously planned to be a bricklayer, but after training in some martial arts, he decided to make a very severe change in careers. After building up a respectable 8-3 record in England, he was invited to participate in season nine of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), which pitted UK fighters against Americans.
The lightweight cruised through the season, improving each time out and would go on to defeat Andre Winner in the finale to capture the TUF 9 lightweight contract.
Pearson made a splash in the UFC 155 pound division, winning his first three bouts before losing in a rather large upset to Cole Miller at UFC Fight Night 22. He briefly got back on track against veteran Spencer Fisher but would go on to lose a very close decision to Edson Barboza in Brazil last summer.
The loss to Barboza fueled a decision to drop down to featherweight and he also started spending much more time at Alliance MMA in San Diego. His run at 145 had mixed results, trading a win and a loss, which prompted the decision to return to lightweight.
After coaching against George Sotiropoulos for TUF The Smashes, he crushed his rival with a third round knockout to hopefully begin a successful second run at lightweight. He'll be trying to continue his momentum against Couture.
How he gets it done: Pearson's game almost exclusively revolved around forward pressure and tight-compact boxing. He'll occasionally use his solid wrestling to take opponents down and work ground and pound, but I don't think he'll be looking to do that against Couture, who is still lacking experience against high level competition.
Expect to see "The Real Deal" constantly moving forward, looking to cut off Couture's escape angles and then try to unload combinations once he's got his opponent pinned down. Pearson is at his best when he's mixing up his attack with jabs, right hooks, body shots and a lot of feints.
The big key for Pearson is to make sure to take his opponent seriously because even if he says Ryan Couture isn't on his level, you can't underestimate him. Pearson fights much worse when he loses respect for his opponent, he loads up on his shots and he doesn't set anything up.
If he fights to the best of his ability, he'll at least win a decision and perhaps score a finish if he can connect cleanly with some heavy shots.
Record: 6-1 overall, 0-0 in the UFC
Key Wins: K.J. Noons (Strikeforce: Marquardt vs. Saffiedine), Joe Duarte (Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Kennedy), Conor Huen (Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey)
Key Losses: Matt Ricehouse (Strikeforce Challengers 16)
How he got here: Couture got into MMA a bit late, but not nearly as late as his father, Randy. He was a solid wrestler in high school and after several years in the real world, decided to follow dad's footsteps into cagefighting in 2009.
Couture fought at his own pace, going 5-1-1 as an amateur and signed with Strikeforce for his professional debut where he defeated Lucas Stark via first round triangle choke.
He had his momentum halted by Matt Ricehouse, but he came back more determined than ever, finally taking on some more seasoned opposition and performing admirable. He finished Conor Heun in his debut on a regular Strikeforce event and earned a decision over Joe Duarte last July.
Couture finally earned his place in the MMA world with his fight against former title challenger K.J. Noons in Strikeforce's final event this past January. In that bout, he tasted serious adversity but hung tough, showed tremendous heart and fired right back at the significantly more experienced and technical boxer. Even if fans disagreed with Couture winning a controversial split decision, he more than proved he could hang with higher level opposition with his performance.
Now, he's set to take on a very sturdy test in Ross Pearson this weekend.
How he gets it done: Couture can't match Pearson's technical striking or experience, but he can make up for that with pure heart. He did the same thing against Noons and at least won one round so despite being a pretty significant underdog here, he has the genes and the determination to hang tough even if things aren't going his way.
The best plan of attack is to try to get a feel for what Pearson is bringing early on. This will help Couture make a decision on whether he wants to go after "The Real Deal" on the feet or on the ground. If he chooses to stand and trade, Pearson can get lackadaisical at times and as long as Couture mixes up his attack and isn't predictable, he might be able to catch him off guard.
On the ground, Pearson is a solid wrestler and wasn't able to be submitted by Sotiropoulos, but that doesn't mean Couture can't try to at least win the positioning battle with him. While I don't expect him to dominate Pearson on the canvas, he could catch him off guard if he's selectively aggressive with sweeps, guard passes and other modes of attack if the fight were to go to the ground.
The longer this fight goes, the more confidence Couture will gain that he can hang with top UFC caliber opposition.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest factor for this fight is how seriously Ross Pearson takes it. He's coming off a huge emotional high against a bitter rival in his return to lightweight and many would view this bout against the debuting Couture as a step down. If he underestimates Couture, he could be caught off guard by the talented albeit newer combatant. Couture is going to bring it regardless of the strength of his opponent so Pearson had better bring his A-game. That being said, if he did take this fight seriously, then he should be in a good position to pull out the W.
Bottom Line: Couture may not be the most technically gifted fighter, but he's extremely entertaining to watch. He's going to be going after Pearson from start to finish and this could set up some very fun exchanges on the feet and potentially some solid grappling scrambles as well. Both men are aggressive and if they fight the way they're capable, then this bout is going to be highly entertaining.
Who will come out on top at UFC on Fuel TV 9? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!