Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) tied a ribbon around its latest Scandinavian-inspired mixed martial arts offering, UFC on Fuel TV 9, earlier TODAY (Sat., April 6, 2013) from Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden.
It was an event designed to showcase its finest Swedish mixed martial arts (MMA) superstar -- and potential future No. 1 Light Heavyweight title contender -- Alexander Gustafsson; however, the hometown hero was forced off the card because of a facial cut he suffered in the final days of training. Ilir Latifi, his training partner and physical diametric, agreed to fill-in against Gegard Mousasi, a very dangerous and decorated former Strikeforce champion who was determined to make his long-awaited Octagon debut.
Out with the tall, in with the short.
And that significant size difference appeared to factor into Mousasi's gameplan, which comprised keeping his distance, dictating pace and snapping jab after jab after jab. FightMetric statistics aren't in yet, but it wouldn't be surprising if "Dream Catcher" set a new jab record for a three-round UFC bout.
He was persistent, precise and punishing.
Latifi, who was branded a "strong wrestler" in the brief build up to the re-worked main event, had few answers for the stinging attack. In fact, he didn't really do much throughout the duration of the 205-pound bout other than eat knuckle sandwiches, swallow blood and survive three rounds against a man who, on any other given day and under different circumstances, more than likely would have turned him inside-out.
Instead, Mousasi -- who revealed post-fight that he was nursing a bad knee injury and had just recovered from a cold -- was content to jab, jab and jab some more. He described it as the stand up version of "lay and pray," which is spot on and, unfortunately, rather boring to watch.
Latifi did land a shot or three that got a rise from the crowd, as well as attempted to bait Mousasi into some kind of wild brawl toward the end of the first round, but the Dutch Armenian made it painfully clear that he wasn't about to bite. "Sledgehammer" hit the wall early in the second round and Mousasi calmly coasted to unanimous decision victory.
In other main card mixed martial arts (MMA) action, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 9 winner, Ross Pearson, needed just 1.5 rounds to eviscerate Ryan Couture in a lopsided Lightweight showdown. Couture, another Strikeforce carryover, struggled to shine against middle-of-the-road 155-pound talent in an inferior promotion, which made the high-profile match up against "Real Deal" a bit odd.
It took Pearson about a round two find his groove, but when he did, it was straight up savage. Coming off a break along the cage, Couture -- the not-so prodigious son of UFC Hall of Fame inductee Randy Couture -- got lazy and failed to create space, inviting Pearson to unload a shin to his ribs.
Couture doubled over, leaving his face exposed, and Pearson proceeded to play a very high percentage game of Whack A Mole. Before long, Couture was on his side, barely conscious, while Pearson was celebrating his second consecutive impressive win since returning from his failed Featherweight experiment.
Welcome back, Ross.
In perhaps an equally far more disturbing mismatch, Matt Mitrione needed less than 20 seconds to turn off Philip De Fries' lights. Both big men were looking to rebound from recent losses, two in the case of "Meathead," who had his Heavyweight ascent stalled courtesy of Cheick Kongo and then Roy Nelson.
Nothing like a coordinated "can kill" to restore some confidence.
De Fries attempted a lame shot to open the bout and in the midst of his retreat, Mitrione was able to use his momentum against him, landing a short forearm to the temple on the way down. Mitrione then delivered about a half-dozen head bouncers that sent the Englishman stiff and signaled his return to the win column.
Unfortunately for Mitrione, it doesn't signal much else.
Brad Pickett and Mike Easton entered their 135-pound showdown eager to erase the memories of recent losses and re-enter the title contender chase. And with division champion Dominick Cruz still sidelined, interim kingpin Renan Barao tooling all-comers and no serious threats other than Eddie Wineland and Urijah Faber, the timing, and circumstances, would appear ideal for the winner to accomplish that important career goal in perhaps record time.
Pickett needed much more than just "One Punch," but once the fists stopped flying, the British bomber was the one who ultimately advanced, albeit by the slimmest of split decision margins.
Easton, primarily known as a dominant ground fighter with strong Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills, more than held his own against Pickett, who has the reputation -- and nickname -- of a stand up fighter even though he has tapped more opponents (four) with submissions than stopped them (one) with punches since 2009.
In fact, it was Picket who sprinkled in the takedowns, which more than likely made the difference on the judges' scorecards in the end.
Indeed, Easton -- despite his grappling pedigree -- opted to once again abandon his core strength in favor of a busy, but less than effective, kickboxing match. Either Easton's Lloyd Irvin-inspired jiu-jitsu isn't built for MMA or "The Hulk" is simply another graduate of the Jorge Gurgel School of Self Defeat.
Regardless, Picket is back atop the Bantamweight contender heap. It wouldn't be too far-fetched to think that his next fight will be against the winner of Urijah Faber vs. Scott Jorgensen, a pivotal divisional match up that will headline TUF 17 Finale next weekend (Sat., April 13, 2013).
The timing, and circumstances, would appear ideal.
Stocky and cocky 5'7" Diego Brandao returned to action looking to string together back-to-back victories for the first-time ever inside the Octagon at the expense of the long and lean 6'1" Pablo Garza, who had dropped two of his three most recent bouts.
Make that three of his last four.
Brandao, unnaturally, wasted several seconds, sauntering -- not storming -- out of his corner, pulling patient punches before finally getting in close enough to register a sensational "Scarecrow" slam. TUF 14 winner, Brandao, then went to work, preparing to tenderize Garza on the ground from side mount.
Perhaps anticipating the looming boom and doom, Garza attempted to get to his feet, but in doing so he left his right arm outstretched, which Brandao quickly used to set up his triangle twist. Before Garza even knew he was in trouble, Brandao had the hold locked in, hopped over his torso in a flash and began to turn the fight-ending vice.
Garza hung on as long as he could, about 15 seconds, before having to tap rather than taking an early Nordic nap. In the process, Brandao recorded those consecutive Octagon victories, which could lead to bigger and better things if he can maintain the momentum.
Like the opportunity to prove he belongs "in the mix" against a 145-pound Top 10-ranked opponent sooner rather than later.
Oft-injured and/or ill Akira Corassani was able to remain healthy enough to keep his rescheduled date with Robbie Peralta, marking a homecoming sorts for the Swedish-born fighter. However, many fight fans didn't give him much of a chance against the red-hot, hard-hitting "Problems" after his inauspicious Octagon debut against Andy Ogle in Sept. 2012, which ended in his favor via split decision thanks to some very debatable judging.
In fact, it was widely believed that Peralta -- coming off a highlight-reel knockout of Jason Young -- would paste TUF 14 alum. He did, at one point in the second round, but other than that dicey moment, Corassani battled hard en route to a well-deserved unanimous decision win.
Indeed, Corassani appeared to confuse Peralta in the opening frame, making him rethink his early striking intentions with several solid shots. Peralta appeared to collect himself in the corner between rounds, reset his approach and come out for the second stanza with a more boxer, less brawler, mentality.
And, as mentioned earlier, it almost worked courtesy of a thundering left cross, but that type of proximity only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. The latter of which Peralta nearly detonated on Corassani as he wobbled backward toward the cage, but he was unable to connect clean on the rebound and seal the deal.
Corassani cleared the cobwebs soon after and landed a hand grenade of his own, a looping overhand right, but Peralta -- who did his own little dazed ditty -- was also able to hang on to see the second round. From that point forward it was all Corassani, who scored a takedown early in the final frame and controlled Peralta for the duration of the round en route to a definitive decision victory.
No controversy this time around.
That's enough from us. Now it's your turn to discuss UFC on FUEL TV 9: "Mousasi vs. Latifi" in the comments section below.
Does Mousasi pose a threat to any of the top Light Heavyweight contenders? Is Pearson the new and improved 155-pound "Real Deal?" Can Mitrione build off his easy win? Will Pickett compete for a world title before the year is out? What does the future hold for Brandao? And how about that surprsing performance from Corassani?
Let's hear it, Maniacs.
Be sure to also check out our complete UFC on FUEL TV 9 blow-by-blow coverage of the entire "Mousasi vs. Latifi" event right here. And for a detailed recap of the UFC on FUEL TV 9 "Prelims" bouts on Facebook click here.