It's been an interesting week for UFC fans with Alexander Gustafsson not being allowed to compete in the main event of UFC on FUEL 9 against Gegard Mousasi (due to a cut above his eye).
Instead for the first time in the Zuffa era we have two men making their UFC debut's in the main event. Jordan is tied up in a choke-hold this week so I'm riding solo. Gegard Mousasi vs. Ilir Latifi
James Lynch TSN.ca (@lynchonsports): Back in 2009 before Jon Jones, Mousasi was the must-see prodigy in the 205-pound class, but surprisingly never earned a UFC contract.
The Dutch-Armenian fighter became irrelevant to casual fans by competing in Strikeforce and participating overseas (in both K-1 kickboxing and the DREAM promotion), however still amassed a number of impressive victories, including seven first round stoppages. His UFC debut was delayed because he (like many other Strikeforce peers) was handcuffed to a restrictive contract with Showtime.
The 27-year old makes his UFC debut Saturday and is currently undefeated in his last six fights. His last minute opponent Latifi is a bit of an enigma and don't worry folks, I don't know much about this fighter either.
What we do know is “The Sledgehammer” has just ten fights with one notable contest, a 2011 loss against Bellator Season 8 tournament winner Emanuel Newton. He replaces Alexander Gustafsson, who wasn't medically cleared by the Swedish MMA Federation due to a cut he suffered during training.
The former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Mousasi is the more seasoned veteran and has both a height and reach advantage. Upsets do happen in this sport, just ask Georges St-Pierre, who lost to Matt Serra in the first round of their fight at UFC 69, but considering the former Dream 205-pound champion has only been stopped twice through 38 fights, it's highly unlikely this will happen.
Mousasi will live up to his nickname “The Dreamcatcher” killing the dreams of his Swedish foe and will finish this fight via stoppage in the first round.
Mousasi via Technical Knockout (First Round)
Ryan Couture vs. Ross Pearson
While this match-up will undoubtedly bring fireworks, the UFC isn't doing Couture any favors in his promotional debut as he's paired with The Ultimate Fighter Season 9 winner. If the last name rings a bell, Couture is the son of former UFC two-division champion Randy Couture and still relatively new to the sport with only seven fights inside the cage.
In his last bout, Couture tasted victory in a controversial split decision over K.J. Noons (which many pundits including this writer, thought Noons won). Pearson meanwhile has bounced between wins and losses and is aiming for his second victory since moving back up to lightweight.
While Couture could prove durable, the Brit will have his hand raised at the end by overwhelming his American adversary both on the feet and on the ground.
Pearson via Unanimous Decision
Phillip De Fries vs. Matt Mitrione
Mitrione looks to bounce back after losing two straight fights when he is matched up against the 26-year-old De Fries. The former NFL defensive tackle will undoubtedly look to keep this fight standing and go for the quick knockout, while the Brit ideally will try and take this fight to the canvas, fishing for a submission.
I see “Meathead” dominating this fight and scoring a knockout win similarly to how Todd Duffee dispatched the Alliance MMA fighter at UFC 155.
Mitrione via Knockout (Second Round)
Mike Easton vs. Brad Pickett
Expect a war between these two as fighters as they're both coming off unanimous decision losses. Easton has a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu while Pickett is well-rounded fighter holding victories over current flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson and Tristar standout Ivan Menjivar. “The Hulk” has only been finished once in his career (and that was due to injury) and has proved to very durable throughout his career. But I think Pickett will get the better of the exchanges, live up to his nickname “One Punch” and knockout the Alliance MMA fighter in the second round.
Pickett via Knockout (Second Round)
Diego Brandao vs. Pablo Garza
Many pundits are picking the Ultimate Fighter Season 14 winner Brandao as the clear cut favourite in this fight, but it's hard to ignore Garza's last performance, where he dominated former title challenger Mark Hominick at UFC 154 (which lead to the Canadians retirement). Despite the Jackson/Winklejohn student being more of a well-rounded fighter than his foe, I think “The Scarecrow” will frustrate the Brazilian with his height and reach advantage and pull off the upset.
Garza via Unanimous Decision
Akira Corassani vs. Robert Peralta
Peralta will keep his 10-fight unbeaten streak intact by overwhelming his opponent on the feat and take out the TUF 14 competitor via knockout, sometime in the third round.
Peralta via Knockout (Third Round)
Undercard Picks: Madadi, Troeng, Amagov, Brimage, Alloway, Lawlor, Yousef
What are your picks for this weekend's UFC on FUEL TV 9 card ? What did you think of the UFC's decision to slot Latifi in the main event? Hit me up on twitter at @LynchOnSports and let the debates begin!