UFC on Fuel 9 Main Card Staff Predictions

Riley Kontek@@BigRIlesMMAFeatured ColumnistApril 5, 2013

UFC on Fuel 9 Main Card Staff Predictions

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    It's been a crazy fight week to say the least leading up to UFC on Fuel 9. Between April Fool's Day shenanigans and a new main event, UFC fans have been at the edge of their seat with the Octagon making its return to Sweden.

    The main attraction sees Strikeforce import Gegard Mousasi, a former champion in both Strikeforce and Pride, take on Alexander Gustafsson training partner Ilir Latifi, who takes the fight on less than a week's notice. Latifi is a native of Sweden, giving him the hometown advantage against a seasoned, proven veteran in Mousasi.

    As UFC on Fuel 9 approaches, Bleacher Report is proud to present the main card picks as chosen by a select group of staff members. Scott Harris, Sean Smith, McKinley Noble, James MacDonald and myself have carefully selected our projected winners for the weekend to give you better insight into each fight.

Robbie Peralta vs. Akira Corassani

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    Kontek: Corassani is a tough dude, but Peralta is a hard-hitting striker who is currently on a tear. Had he not received a no-contest for an accidental headbutt against Mackens Semerzier, he would be  undefeated in the UFC. He won't finish the Swede in the first round, but he will punish him enough to get a stoppage in the second.

    Peralta, TKO, Round 2 

    Smith: So, this is really a UFC main card bout? Not that many are likely to be interested, but Peralta should have a noticeable advantage from the get-go. He looked good against a game opponent in Jason Young, whereas Corassani needed a split decision to get past the unproven Andy Ogle.

    Peralta, TKO, Round 2 

    Noble: Corassani didn't look like much during his season of The Ultimate Fighter and barely beat Andy Ogle in his UFC debut. Given Peralta's heavy knockout power and reach advantage, this one seems fairly obvious.

    Peralta, TKO, Round 2

    MacDonald: Corassani is precisely the type of fighter who is in the sights of the UFC axeman: a TUF veteran who hasn’t demonstrated anything beyond middling potential. Unfortunately for him, I expect Peralta to have too much game.

    Peralta, TKO, Round 2

    Harris:  This featherweight collision was originally set for February but was rescheduled for this event. Corassani, despite all the brashness he displayed in front of the TUF cameras, might ultimately wish this one hadn't been rescheduled at all. The hard-hitting Peralta is one accidental headbutt removed from a spotless UFC record. He'll keep on rolling in Sweden.

    Peralta, TKO, Round 1

Diego Brandao vs. Pablo Garza

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    Kontek: Brandao is a nasty striker with a solid ground game but has had cardio issues in recent bouts. Garza is the taller, lankier fighter who has a proven gas tank and has shown he can implement a game plan when he defeated Mark Hominick. The longer the fight goes, the more it favors Garza.

    Garza, Unanimous Decision 

    Smith: Garza bounced back well from back-to-back losses to defeat Mark Hominick in his last outing. The win saved him from being cut by the world's top MMA organization, but things aren't about to get any easier for him. Styles make fights, but it's hard to go with Garza in this one considering he was recently defeated by Dennis Bermudez, a fighter Brandao submitted in the first round.

    Brandao, Submission, Round 1

    Noble: Picking Garza makes me wary, and his win over Mark Hominick only indicated to me that that the former contender was falling hard past his prime. This one is a toss-up, but I'll go with the more seasoned Greg Jackson MMA fighter and more diverse jiu-jitsu practitioner.

    Brandao, Submission, Round 2

    MacDonald: Brandao has a ton of potential, assuming he can mend his stamina issues. Garza is a tricky fight for the Brazilian, boasting a well-rounded striking game and a dangerous guard. I’m predicting a minor upset here, with Garza taking advantage of Brandao’s easily depleted gas tank to earn a decision.

    Garza, Unanimous Decision

    Harris: Brandao's striking power makes him a favorite, but I'm not sleeping on Garza. In fact, I'm wide awake on "The Scarecrow," who showed he most definitely has a brain in his impressive win over Mark Hominick last fall. Garza will use that brain and his range to weather an early storm and come on late to overtake the forceful but easy-to-frustrate Brandao. Sound the upset alarms.

    Garza, Split Decision

Brad Pickett vs. Mike Easton

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    Kontek: Easton loves to stand and trade, but he must remember that his wrestling is an asset that needs to be better utilized in the cage. He wants to avoid throwing hands with Pickett, as the Brit is a good boxer. Pickett is no picnic on the ground either, but Easton can to stifle him from the top. 

    Easton, Unanimous Decision

    Smith: Good chins and well-rounded ground games mean this fight is going to the scorecards. Pickett has the conditioning to deal with Easton's constant movement and is a bit more technical with his boxing. 

    Pickett, Unanimous Decision

    Noble: This fight is Pickett's to lose. Easton has a habit of slowing down when his fights turn into wars of attrition, so Pickett should outlast him thanks to a deeper gas tank and an iron chin.

    Pickett, Unanimous Decision

    MacDonald: Easton is a strange one. He generally stomps his way to the cage with the kind of intensity you’d expect from someone out for vengeance. But when the bell rings, he becomes more conservative than Sarah Palin, relentlessly stalking his foe without inflicting too much damage. Pickett is aggressive enough to turn this into a decent scrap and skilled enough to pick up the win.

    Pickett, Unanimous Decision

    Harris: These two fighters, especially Easton, tend to be a lot more exciting outside the cage than in it. That's going to leave a lot of fans wishing some of the promising undercard fighters—Conor McGregor vs. Marcus Brimage for example—had made it to TV instead.

    Pickett, Unanimous Decision

Matt Mitrione vs. Phil De Fries

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    Kontek: De Fries has failed to put together two wins in a row with the UFC. Every time he snags a victory, he gets his lights turned off in his next fight by a powerful striker. Mitrione happens to have heavy hands, and is quicker and more athletic than the Brit. Time to see De Fries take a nap one more time.

    Mitrione, KO, Round 1

    Smith: It's surprising to see the once promising Mitrione in this situation, but a loss on Saturday would almost certainly lead to his release from the UFC roster. Fortunately for the athletic Mitrione, De Fries is a favorable matchup. The Englishman has holes in his striking defense and is a submission artist without great takedowns.

    Mitrione, KO, Round 1

    Noble: Ugh, it's hard to look forward to a "loser goes home" match in the heavyweight division. Although I want to think that Mitrione has a game plan to avoid getting cut, that Blackzilians curse is pretty serious stuff.

    De Fries, Submission, Round 1

    MacDonald: Neither man will come close to touching UFC gold, but Mitrione is the more compelling character of the two. Both are probably fighting to remain employed, so it could turn into a decent scrap. You never know. Right, guys? Guys?

    Mitrione, Unanimous Decision

    Harris: A classic slugger vs. grappler matchup for the heavyweight division. It's unfortunate that neither one plies his specialty at a level elite enough to be considered, what's the term I want here?Interesting. Loser leaves town for sure.

    Mitrione, KO, Round 1

Ross Pearson vs. Ryan Couture

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    Kontek: Couture got away with a questionable win in his last bout with K.J. Noons, but he is taking on a different type of animal in Pearson. The Brit has crisp striking and great athleticism, but he will need to avoid Couture's takedowns should he get froggy.  

    Pearson, Unanimous Decision

    Smith: In Couture years, 30-year-old Ryan is still in his MMA infancy. Seriously, though, Pearson is too much for a UFC debutant coming off a questionable victory over K.J. Noons. Chalk this one up as a learning experience for Couture, whose four-fight winning streak will come to an end despite his toughness.

    Pearson, Unanimous Decision

    Noble: Couture is getting thrown a tough debut here, and I'm sure that Dana White and Joe Silva aren't too concerned about giving him a gradual build in the UFC. No matter, though—Pearson should win this handily unless he's having an off night.

    Pearson, Unanimous Decision

    MacDonald:To be frank, I’m not optimistic about Couture’s chances of holding onto his job come Monday morning. He was fortunate to pick up a decision against K.J. Noons, and he’s facing a fighter in Pearson who can shut down his grappling game and pick him apart on the feet.

    Pearson, Unanimous Decision

    Harris: Ryan Couture made the UFC by the skin of his teeth. And I'm talking the very thinnest tooth skin possible, given that highly questionable eke-out victory over K.J. Noons in the Strikeforce finale a couple of months ago. Pearson will put an end to all the questions come Saturday. 

    Pearson, TKO, Round 2

Ilir Latifi vs. Gegard Mousasi

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    Kontek: Alexander Gustafsson's loss is potentially Latifi's gain. This fight is still interesting, as the top contender's teammate is a UFC-ready fighter and well-rounded. The problem is that he has never faced anybody as tough as Mousasi, and he will likely suffer because of this. 

    Mousasi, TKO, Round 2

    Smith: It took an injury to his teammate, Alexander Gustafsson, but this late-notice fight is Latifi's ticket into the big show. It'll be nothing more, though. Latifi is going to have to take some lumps from Mousasi before getting a UFC fight with an opponent who is more on his level.

    Mousasi, TKO, Round 1

    Noble:  As soon as Latifi was announced as Alexander Gustafsson's replacement, the betting lines on Mousasi jumped to -2000 and higher. That's sad. Latifi has a puncher's chance, but I'm sure he's going to earn more favors from Joe Silva in a gutsy loss than a surprise win. Mousasi, all day.

    Mousasi, Unanimous Decision

    MacDonald: I don't know a great deal about Latifi other than the fact that he looks like Sergeant Batista from Dexter. Based on a little last-minute research, he appears to be at home in the clinch. If he is to be successful, roughing up Mousasi on the inside and depleting the Dutchman's gas tank might be his best bet. This should be Mousasi's fight, though, particularly if he has prepared as well as we have been led to believe.

    Mousasi, TKO, Round 2

    Harris: Latifi is an elite grappler and ferocious ground-and-pound fighter. In short, he's no can and might surprise some people by being the foil in a nice little scrap. But with only four days notice to work with and facing a well-rounded machine in Mousasi, it's only a matter of time until he succumbs.

    Mousasi, TKO, Round 2