UFC on Fuel TV 9 was headlined by Gegard Mousasi’s decision victory over short-notice replacement Ilir Latifi, who took the fight on four days notice to replace his injured training partner, Alexander Gustafsson. Lets take a look at who came out of the Ericsson Globe with the biggest wins, most impressive performances, and where we are after the dust settles with The Aftermen: UFC on Fuel TV 9 Edition.
Sometimes we need a fight card to demand our respect. That is what UFC on Fuel TV 9 did on Saturday in Stockholm, Sweden. I wasn’t the only one caught up in the drama of Gustafsson getting cut, Wanderlei Silva trying out new comedic material on the mma media, and the anti-climactic announcement that Gegard Mousasi would be facing Ilir Latifi, a Swede who trains with Gustafsson. So much emphasis was put on the who, what, where, why, and how of the main event that the rest of the card sort of took a backseat to the goings on surrounding the headliner. All of the sudden, with Gustafsson’s removal, people were griping that the UFC was back to falling into its old pitfalls of booking a ‘one-fight card’, and everything was ‘lose-lose’ for Gegard Mousasi. On a card where a prelim fight featuring a fighter making his UFC debut had almost as much hype as the original main event, even earning the twitter hashtag #thepeoplesmainevent, the two men in the last fight of the night didn’t need all the attention on them, and the performances put on in Stockholm proved that.
Conor McGregor’s UFC debut was one of the most hyped in recent memory. There were calls to put his fight on the main card, which it ultimately did end up replaying on, but the uniqueness of McGregor is that it wasn’t the UFC drumming up all the hype, it was his fan base and his highlight reels, with a little help from MTV UK. Marcus Brimage said before the fight that everyone saw him as McGregor’s stepping stone, and thy hype around McGregor pissed him off, but after just over a minute in the cage, I’d say Brimage believes some of the hype. ‘The Notorious’ Conor McGregor landed his 10th first round finish against Brimage, with a series of scrappy uppercuts and a left that sent the ‘Bama Beast’ to the mat where it didn’t take much more for referee Robert Sindel to waive it off in favor of a TKO win for the Irishman. Dana White announced at the post-fight presser that Conor McGregor’s next outing would come at the UFC’s return to Boston on August 17th. As far as an opponent goes, the top six or so fighters at 145 pounds are all booked, and I don’t think the UFC wants to rush McGregor into title contention, if for no other reason than that featherweight has about as many arguable number-one contenders as heavyweight has fighters. I’d like to see McGregor take on another winner from Fuel 9, Diego Brandao.
Bantamweights Bring It
Fight-of-the-night at Fuel 9 went to Brad Pickett and Mike Easton, who fought from pillar to post (without cutting their eyes). They traded elbows against the fence in the first, and scrambled vehemently in the third, with Pickett sprinkling in a diverse array of choke attempts. Going in, Easton had never been taken down, and ‘One Punch’ got him down four out of seven tries. Easton ate a lot more than one punch from Pickett, but stayed in it and they swung until the final horn sounded. The top 10 fighter’s at 135 pounds really have a stranglehold on the division. I’d like to see Brad Pickett face Michael McDonald, or the winner of Faber/Jorgensen next.
The Meathead Rebound
I picked Mitrione to beat Phil De Fries, but I didn’t think it would end the way it did, or at least as quickly as it did. 16 seconds into the first round, De Fries shot in and ended up rolling on his back just long enough for the elbows and punches of Matt Mitirone to do what they do. Say what you will about the quickness of the finish, and how flukish it may have been that De Fries knocked into Mitrione’s hips, but Mitrione knows hows to accurately unleash his ground and pound. Most fighters, in that moment of surprise, would miss at least one of those shots in the fury of trying to finish, but Mitrione’s gloves hit De Fries on the face like that were magnetized to his chin. We didn’t learn anything new about Ole Matrone in this outing, but it does keep his ‘last of dying breed’ UFC-only professional career on the winning side. What’s next?
‘The Real Deal’ approaches the top ten.
The hardest part of Ross Pearson’s night may have been his walk out to the cage. Pearson injured his foot while warming up in the locker room. This whole event has been an example of how fragile the human body is, and even veteran fighters are susceptible to unplanned, seemingly avoidable injuries. Couture had Pearson up against the fence early, with his head drilled into Pearson’s chest. The head fighting in the clinch is Ryan’s bread and butter, but he couldn’t keep Pearson down. He was able to avoid Pearson’s right hand and make it out of the first round, but Pearson found his range and the hunt began in the beginning or round number two. He finally dropped Couture with a left hook and swarmed in for the TKO. Three UFC losses in two weight classes derailed Pearson’s road to contention, but his most recent two knock-outs might be a sign of things to come. The injured foot didn’t stop the dropping power of both Pearson’s hands, and I’d say it’s time for a step up in competition for Pearson, and anyone in the top 10 at 155 would be an excellent next fight.
Mousasi Remains Indifferent
The only person Gegard Mousasi had any feelings toward whatsoever this week was Wanderlei Silva, who on twitter fooled everyone of his guys with an April fools joke that he had accepted the fight with Gegard. Mousasi didn’t enjoy the joke, and how could he? A fight-week opponent switch that ends up being a fake-out can be really annoying. Less annoying to Mousasi was his actual opponent, Ilir Latifi. With the circumstances being what they were, with Mousasi’s secret knee injury, and the aforementioned opponent switch from top-ranked Alexander Gustafsson to the unranked, debuting Latifi, you have to understand Mousasi’s thought process. In persuit of an exciting outing, what if he lost in a moment of carelessness? That would have been great for Latifi, but bad for virtually everyone else involved. There goes a fight down the road with Gus, or any top five fighter for that matter. Mousasi calmly used his jab to win a snoozer in Sweden, but let’s just be glad its over and try this one again. The UFC is slowly coming up with contingencies for as many unforeseen scenarios as they have had to deal with in recent memory. Mousasi will be undergoing surgery on his knee, and hopefully will have a top ranked opponent waiting when he returns. Not the best UFC debut for the ultra-talented Mousasi, but he doesn’t seem too worked up about it.
Lets give Latifi some credit.
If the UFC called you and offered you a main event fight, would you take it? I ask because they very well might. We live in a time where many fighters turn down fights weeks in advance, because they are afraid of what saying ‘yes’ might do to their record. Ilir Latifi drove his car eight hours to Stockholm on a hunch that they may need him to fight four days later. Did any other fighter have to drive in a car for any long period of time during fight week? And forget about getting some time to prepare. Latifi was in the main event, which required a frenzy of last minute promotional work and video/photo shoots. Throw in the fact that he was fighting Gegard Mousasi of all people, who has one of the best resumes in the sport, and you have to give this man some credit. He tried. He went out there, nervous as hell, tried to get the crowd into it, and gave it his all against Mousasi. So however inexperienced, or unprepared he may have looked in the beating his face took from those jobs, you have to respect him for signing up for all that. I’m sure the UFC is going to compensate him for his troubles, and he will definitely get another chance in the octagon to redeem himself.