That’s right boys and girls, it’s time for another Swedish edition of the Downes Side! While previous iterations have been accused of being more daunting than Tolstoy, I promise to make this version as easy to handle as my Tromsö.
The main event may have changed at the last minute, but no one will be looking for easy to assemble loft bedding this Saturday for UFC on FUEL TV 9. Live from the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, it promises to be more exciting than upcoming Walpurgis Night celebrations. The Swedish sledgehammer Ilir Latifi steps in on short notice for his injured teammate Alexander Gustafsson to battle former Dream and Strikeforce champion Gegard Mousasi. In the co-main event of the evening, Ryan Couture begins his UFC career as he battles TUF 9 winner Ross Pearson.
Akira Corassani (12-4) vs Robbie Peralta (16-3, 1 NC)
The main card kicks off in the featherweight division as TUF 14 alum Akira Corassani tries to end Robbie Peralta’s ten fight unbeaten streak. After a 17 month layoff, Corassani made a successful UFC debut against Andy Ogle in September via controversial split decision. Robbie Peralta made a much more convincing statement in his last fight, demolishing Jason Young in only 23 seconds.
Corassani has struggled on the ground, but luckily Peralta prefers to keep things standing up. Unfortunately, Peralta’s power advantage won’t be that much of a comfort for the Swede. Corassani lacks the physical strength or the wrestling pedigree to tie up and slow the hard swinging Californian. I fully expect Corassani to have “Problems,” eat too many punches and lose by first round TKO.
Diego Brandao (20-8) vs Pablo Garza (13-3)
We remain in the featherweight division for Pablo “Scarecrow” Garza and Diego “Ceara” Brandao. Standing at 6’1” Garza has utilized technical striking and a strong submission game to defeat fighters like Mark Hominick, Yves Jabouin and Fredson Paixao. A Greg Jackson product and TUF 14 winner, Brandao has finished 13 opponents, with 11 of those coming in the first round.
The key here will be for Garza to weather the early assault. A quick starter, Brandao has shown a penchant for fading as the fight continues. While not as athletically gifted as Brandao, Garza has a strong fight IQ and the ability to pull off some unpredictable moves (how many flying triangle chokes have you seen lately?). After avoiding the initial power shots, Garza will find his range and keep Brandao at bay with his jab. In the third round, Brandao will grow frustrated and rush in for a takedown. He’ll get it, but Garza will use those long limbs to secure a triangle choke submission.
Brad Pickett (23-7) vs Mike Easton (13-2)
We drop down to the bantamweight division with the odds on favorite for Fight of the Night as Brad “One Punch” Pickett takes on Mike “The Hulk” Easton. Owner of the bonus Grand Slam (one SOTN, one KOTN and three FOTN) in his Zuffa career, Pickett is known for his willingness to stand in the pocket and trade. Lost in all that, though, is the fact that he also holds 10 career submission victories and the second highest takedown average among active bantamweights. Aggressive and always charging forward, Easton has never been taken down in his entire UFC career.
Easton is a victim of a positive first impression. It’s like being overly romantic the first month you date a girl and once you get comfortable she complains about the “spark being gone.” Despite his moniker, Easton has not exactly been smashing opponents since his TKO over Byron Bloodworth. Easton’s one track mind of charging straight forward is not the ideal strategy against someone like Pickett. Easton will score with a few shots, but Pickett’s overall superiority will soon take hold. Pickett will effectively counter, take the fight to the mat and ground Easton long enough to pick up the decision victory.
Matt Mitrione (5-2) vs Philip De Fries (9-2, 1 NC)
We jump up to heavyweight as Philip De Fries and Matt Mitrione both search for an end to their respective losing skids. After winning his first five career fights, everyone’s favorite meathead has lost two in a row against Roy Nelson and Cheick Kongo. A Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu purple belt, De Fries has been knocked out in two of his last three fights by Todd Duffee and Stipe Miocic.
De Fries has the clear grappling advantage. The only problem is that I’m not sure how he’ll get it to the ground. He hasn’t shown the offensive wrestling game to force opponents down and Mitrione is the far superior athlete. Mitrione has struggled the last couple of fights, but De Fries does not possess the striking credentials of Kongo or Nelson. As De Fries comes in for the clinch, Mitrione will land his left cross flush. This will rattle the Englishman worse than Dick Van Dyke’s Cockney accent from Mary Poppins and lead to a 1st round TKO loss.
Ross Pearson (16-6) vs Ryan Couture (6-1)
We drop down to the lightweight division as one fighter looks for a successful debut and another continues a resurgence. Ryan Couture carries the wrestling aura of his father, but was actually the most accurate striker in Strikeforce lightweight history, succeeding with 49.6% of his strikes. After experimenting in the 145lb division, Ross Pearson made a successful return to 155 with a third round TKO of George Sotiropolous in December.
Pearson hasn’t minced words about his opponent, even stating that Couture isn’t “on his level.” Well...instead of delicious pannkakor, Ross Pearson will have to eat crow. Couture may not be outstanding in any one area, but his conditioning and strategy propelled him to a win against KJ Noons and it will do the same here. As the fight goes on, Couture will become stronger and Pearson will start to fade. Eventually Couture will plant his opponent on the ground and work his submission game. He won’t get the finish, but it will be enough to secure the unanimous decision win.
Ilir Latifi (8-2, 1 NC) vs Gegard Mousasi (33-3-2)
That brings us to the main event of the evening! Stepping in on short notice, Ilir Latifi expects to make the most talked about Swedish premiere since Ingmar Bergman. Looking to derail that debut is the veteran Gegard Mousasi. With only one loss in his last 20 fights, Mousasi has been all over the world and fought a who’s who of top MMA talent. The man formerly known as “The Dreamcatcher” has finished 29 opponents, with the most recent victim being Mike Kyle in January.
Wouldn’t it be amazing to see the giant underdog step into the cage and shock the world? Sure it would, but it’d also be amazing to see all the original members of The Eagles get back together. As my parents taught me at a young age, life is about disappointments and that truism will come to fruition once again. Latfi’s strategy relies on rushing forward, utilizing looping hooks and then bringing it to the ground for the finish. Mousasi is far too experienced to fall for that plan of attack. As Latifi rushes in, Mousasi counters him with a solid cross and takes the first round KO.
That wraps up another International House of Predictions! Be sure to follow me on Twitter @dannyboydownes. Also, don’t forget to add you own thoughts, predictions and modular furniture suggestions on the page here. Min svävare är full med ålar.
The Downes Side: UFC on FUEL TV 9 Predictions
UFC/WEC veteran Dan Downes talks strategy and predictions for UFC on FUEL TV 9, taking place Saturday, April 6