Eh, still more exciting than the Rocky musical. Photo courtesy of Josh Hedges/Getty Images.
Let’s start off by stating the obvious: The last-minute main event of yesterday’s UFC on Fuel TV 9 was an anti-climactic ending to an otherwise gratifying afternoon of sanctioned violence. As hard as we tried to convince ourselves that Swedish prospect Ilir Latifi could be an interesting opponent for highly-regarded Strikeforce import Gegard Mousasi, the actual fight was completely unspectacular. This isn’t to say that either fighter deserves criticism for his performance, but rather, that this sort of thing will happen when a guy who earned a UFC contract by virtue of being willing to replace his injured training partner headlines an event on four days’ notice.
Despite walking out to the Rocky theme, it immediately became clear that a Balboa-esque upset – or even a Wepnerian display of resilience – was not in store for Latifi (though the cuts on his face were vintage Chuck Wepner). Latifi was completely incapable of avoiding Mousasi’s jab, which prevented him from getting close enough to The Dreamcatcher to actually put his wrestling prowess to use. As carefree as Mousasi looked – did he even blink during those rare occasions when Latifi landed punches? – he was in complete control throughout the bout, jabbing his way to a unanimous decision victory.
Mousasi’s “standing lay-and-pray” (his words, not mine) may not have made for the most exciting fight, but his strategy was undeniably effective. A boring fight probably won’t advance Mousasi in the UFC’s official rankings as far as a devastating finish would have, but a loss to an unknown nobody would have certainly done irreparable damage to his credibility. It’s better to take an ugly victory than get reckless looking for a quick finish – especially against a wrestler you’ve only had a few days to prepare for.
One last thing before we move on to the rest of the card. For his performance against Mousasi, Ilir Latifi will be given another shot in the UFC. Considering he saved the main event from cancellation, this comes as a surprise to absolutely no one.
Elsewhere on the card…
- Despite winning the first round by utilizing an effective clinch, Ryan Couture was simply no match for the far more experienced Ross Pearson. Couture was ineffective outside of the clinch, and he was unable to take Pearson down. Once Pearson found his rhythm against the inexperienced Couture, he patiently waited for the right opportunity, and capitalized on it while Ryan Couture was getting back to his feet after a trip. With the victory, Pearson improves to 15-6 in his career. Not bad at all for a guy who fought on a broken foot. [Update: Turns out it wasn't actually broken, just jacked up...]
The comparisons of Ryan to Randy – especially after what has only been Ryan’s eighth professional bout – aren’t exactly fair, but even Peyton Manning started off as “Archie’s boy.” Besides, when Natural Light (who is not actually called this, fortunately) landed a spot in the co-main event for his UFC debut, it was probably inevitable that fans would attribute this to his last name and his father’s career rather than the strength of his Strikeforce resume. This isn’t to say that Ryan Couture won’t develop into an outstanding fighter, but rather, that he isn’t quite there yet. It’ll be interesting to see how he rebounds from this loss.
- For all intents and purposes, Matt Mitrione vs. Philip De Fries appeared to be a classic loser leaves town match. The fact that it ended in less time than Bucky Boyd vs. The Tree seems to confirm this notion. And regardless of how much job security guys who stand and bang and make less than $50,000 to show typically have, knocking yourself out by running into your opponent’s hipbone just has to earn you a pink slip…right?
Look on the bright side, Philip: There’s a strong possibility that you’ll take home an award during this year’s Potato Awards. Granted, MMA Fail of the Year isn’t our most coveted award, but at least it’s something.
- Fight of the Night honors went to Brad Pickett and Mike Easton, who took part in a highly entertaining three round scrap. Pickett managed to take the fight by being the busier fighter, out-striking Mike Easton throughout the contest. Still, Easton managed to keep things close by taking Pickett down in the second round, and even managed to win the bout on one judge’s scorecard. I don’t see how one judge could give Easton the fight, but in the end, the right call was made.
- Diego Brandao looked more impressive last night than he has at any other point during his UFC career. Granted, that isn’t saying too much, but he looked like he has figured out how to pace himself while choking out Pablo Garza. Also from the main card, Swedish featherweight Akira Corassani kicked things off with a unanimous decision upset over Robbie Peralta.
- Knockout of the Night went to Irish phenom Conor McGregor, who absolutely crushed Marcus Brimage in his UFC debut, demonstrating he’s more than capable of living up to his hype. McGregor has already been given a spot on the UFC’s Fox Sports 1 debut in Boston this August. The bonus money couldn’t have possibly come at a better time for McGregor, who revealed during the post-event press conference that he had been receiving welfare leading up to the fight.
- Submission of the night went to Swedish lightweight Reza Madadi, who finished Michael Johnson via third round d’arce choke. Madadi improves his UFC record to 2-1, and his overall record to 13-3 with the victory.
- All end of the night bonuses were worth $60,000.
Gegard Mousasi def. Ilir Latifi via Unanimous Decision
Ross Pearson def. Ryan Couture via TKO (punches), 3:45 of Round Two
Matt Mitrione def. Phil De Fries via KO (punches), 0:19 of Round One
Brad Pickett def. Mike Easton via Split Decision
Diego Brandao def. Pablo Garza via Submission (Arm-Triangle Choke), 3:27 of Round One
Akira Corassani def. Robbie Peralta via Unanimous Decision
Reza Madadi def. Michael Johnson via Submission (D’arce Choke), 1:33 of Round Three
Tor Troéng def. Adam Cella via Submission (Rear-Naked Choke), 3:11 of Round One
Adlan Amagov def. Chris Spång via Unanimous Decision
Conor McGregor def. Marcus Brimage via TKO (Punches), 1:07 of Round One
Ryan LaFlare def. Ben Alloway via Unanimous Decision
Tom Lawlor def. Michael Kuiper via Submission (Guillotine Choke), 1:05 of Round Two
Papy Abedi def. Besam Yousef via Split Decision