Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is just hours away from its return to the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, featuring a patched-up UFC on FUEL TV 9 fight card that features International star Gegard Mousasi taking on hometown prospect Ilir Latifi.
"The Sledgehammer" steps in for the injured Alexander Gustafsson, who was sliced open in training and forced to withdraw.
Also dropping bombs on the televised main card is The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 9 champion Ross Pearson, who wants to prove he's the "Real Deal" at the expense of Ryan Couture. Fellow TUF guys Matt Mitrione, Akira Corassani and Diego Brandao are also in action.
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the main card action on Saturday (April 6, 2013), which is slated to air at 2 p.m. ET on FUEL TV. The latest quick updates of the live action will begin to flow earlier than that around 10:30 a.m. ET with the "Prelims" bouts on Facebook.
Let's get to it.
205 lbs.: Gegard "The Dreamcatcher" Mousasi (33-3-2) vs. Ilir "The Sledgehammer" Latifi (7-2)
Nostradumbass predicts: I've heard a lot of fight fans refer to this card as "Hey, at least it's not UFC 151!" As if not getting canceled is somehow a compliment. It's hard enough to ask people to stay home on a Saturday afternoon to watch a FUEL TV fight card, but take away the one match with title implications and there isn't a whole lot to get excited about.
Hopefully Ilir Latifi can rise to the occasion.
I know all the cool kids are picking "The Sledgehammer" because Gegard Mousasi will be unmotivated, often fights down to his opponents (see Jardine, Keith) but even if he's blase about this match-up, he's still facing a guy that was pounded out by Tatsuya Mizuno.
The same Tatsuya Mizuno "The Dreamcatcher" choked out less than a year later.
It's easy to poke holes in the Armenian's takedown defense based on his losing performance against Muhammed Lawal, but let's also keep in mind that "King Mo" is a world-class wrestler. Latifi is not. In fact, he's not a world-class anything, which is why you've never heard of him.
Mousasi has defeated Hector Lombard, Melvin Manhoef, Mark Hunt and Ronaldo Souza. I'm going to pick Latifi because of some bullshit Rocky story? This ain't the movies, folks, and I know the promotion has to try to sell us on the intangibles of this fight, but I know better.
You should, too
When you strip away all the nonsense we've had to endure leading up this fight, all you're left with is a light heavyweight who has only lost three times in 38 fights across the span of 10 years, taking on a regional fighter who was tough enough to step up on four days notice when duty called.
I'd be shocked if this didn't end in the opening frame.
Final prediction: Mousasi def. Latifi via technical knockout
155 lbs.: Ryan Couture (6-1) vs. Ross "The Real Deal" Pearson (14-6)
Nostradumbass predicts: I'm often surprised to hear fans talk about Ryan Couture as if he's some young, up-and-coming prospect. He's 30 years old and only has seven professional fights. By contrast, Ross Pearson is two years younger and has nearly three times the experience.
But that's not why "The Real Deal" wins.
I don't think it's outrageous to suggest Couture lost his fight against K.J. Noons, despite what the judges' scorecards may have read. In addition, he's not that far removed from a unanimous decision loss to Matt Ricehouse under the Strikeforce banner.
When you look at his level of competition, it leaves a lot to be desired.
I'm not trying to paint Pearson as some kind of world beater, but he's certainly a much better striker than his opponent. His drop to featherweight robbed him of his power, but now he's quicker, fresher and stronger back home at 155 pounds. That pretty much rules out Couture's path to victory, which would have been a cardio-heavy grindfest.
I think Pearson stuffs the shot and picks him apart on the feet for three rounds. "Natural" junior -- who won't have Big Daddy C in his corner -- is too tough to be put away and will probably be game until the end. Unfortunately, he just doesn't have the tools to overcome the scrappy Brit, who's confidence is likely at an all-time high after pasting George Sotiropoulos last December.
Final prediction: Pearson def. Couture via unanimous decision
265 lbs.: Philip De Fries (9-2) vs. Matt "Meathead" Mitrione (5-2)
Nostradumbass predicts: From what I understand, Philip De Fries is a pretty big deal in Britain. Then again, so is Mr. Bean, so take that for what it's worth. He's been slapped around in two of his three Octagon appearances, first by Stipe Miocic and then again by Todd Duffee.
His lone UFC win came last August when he strangled a former powerlifter (yawn).
To me, that sounds like a fighter tailor-made for Matt Mitrione. If you look at his record, "Meathead" has made a career (albeit a short one) out of beating up transitional talent. In five Octagon wins, four of his victims have been cut or retired and one dropped down to light heavyweight.
His two losses were telling, but not what I would consider cause for alarm.
Getting pushed around by Cheick Kongo for three rounds and then getting blown to smithereens by Roy Nelson looks bad on paper, but Mitrione had just five professional fights heading into his unanimous decision loss to the hulking Parisian.
I don't think he'll ever be a title contender, but you don't have to be to defeat guys like De Fries.
Final result: Mitrione def. De Fries via technical knockout
135 lbs.: Mike "The Hulk" Easton (13-2) vs. Brad "One Punch" Pickett (22-7)
Nostradumbass predicts: It's hard to get on a guy like Mike Easton, because he's only lost twice in his career. Still, I can't help but feel a little underwhelmed by his run under the ZUFFA banner. He started out with a nice technical knockout win over Byron Bloodworth, but it's been three straight decisions since then with no real "wow" factor.
In a top-heavy division with guys like Urijah Faber, Renan Barao and (eventually) Dominick Cruz, I need to see fireworks if I'm to believe there's a chance at making a run. So far, all I see is a tough wrestler with power punches and plenty of grunting.
That doesn't make him a can, but it doesn't make him a contender, either.
His fight against Brad Pickett should be a pretty good indication of what kind of future Easton has at bantamweight. "One Punch" has fought many of the top stars at 135 pounds, including the aforementioned Barao as well as Scott Jorgensen and Eddie Wineland.
They match up well both on the feet and on the ground and as with any fight in this division, I expect a barnburner. The problem with Easton is that for all the tools he has, I sometimes wonder if he knows how to use them. Winning a fight takes talent, but talent can be negated by intelligence.
Look for the craftier, more experienced Brit to score points when he has to en route to locking up a narrow decision victory.
Final prediction: Pickett def. Easton via split decision
145 lbs.: Diego "Ceara" Brandao (16-8) vs. Pablo "The Scarecrow" Garza (12-3)
Nostradumbass predicts: I think it's fitting that Wanderlei Silva has taken Diego Brandao under his wing. Like "The Axe Murderer" in the old days of PRIDE FC, the young Brazilian has got a good portion of his division crapping their pants before they even step foot inside the cage.
He is not, however, unbeatable.
Despite the fact that he storms out of the gate, going all batshit crazy on his opponent, his aggressive offense isn't just wild haymakers and sweaty cage humping. His punches are accurate and his jiu-jitsu is sound. If he could keep himself from blowing his load in the first five minutes, he'd be an immediate contender.
Darren Elkins laid the blueprint for beating "Ceara."
What's unfortunate is that Pablo Garza will have no such luck. "The Scarecrow" got off to a hot start inside the Octagon, first with a spectacular knockout over Fredson Paixao and then with a flying triangle choke over Yves Jabouin.
It was fun while it lasted.
Both Dustin Poirier and Dennis Bermudez brought him back down to earth and when I look at this match-up, I think of how tall and lanky Garza is, and how difficult it will be to keep that murderous lunatic out of his wheelhouse using the jab.
Without serious knockout power or the strength of an ox, Brandao is going to bully his way inside and hulk-smash his way to victory.
Final prediction: Brandao def. Garza via technical knockout
145 lbs.: Hamid "Akira" Corassani (10-3) vs. Robbie "Problems" Peralta (16-3)
Nostradumbass predicts: I know this sounds harsh, but I don't believe Akira Corassani belongs in UFC. I thought he was exposed on TUF 14 (remember this phantom tap) and his fight against Andy Ogle was a travesty. Well, I thought the decision was, anyway.
That was his lone appearance inside the Octagon, which he earned by talking tough on the combat sports reality show. Prior to stealing one against Ogle, he was pounded out by Paul Reed in his native Sweden. I haven't seen anything from him that leads me to believe he can give Robbie Peralta (wait for it) ... "Problems."
Peralta is unbeaten in 10 fights and has seven nasty finishes during that span (14 overall). I know the big criticism directed toward the featherweight phenom is that he hasn't fought anybody of note, but he's not fighting anybody of note tomorrow, either, which is why I expect him to win this one on autopilot.
Final prediction: Peralta def. Corassani via technical knockout
That's a wrap, folks.
For previews and predictions on the preliminary card fights click here and here. To see all the odds and betting lines for UFC on FUEL TV 9 click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Mousasi vs. Latifi."
What do you think? Now it's your turn ... let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for tomorrow's event.