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Now that we’re past analyzing our exciting prelims, it’s time to take on the main card which will be shown on Fuel TV this Saturday, April 6th. After a shake up in the main event match up, Gegard Mousasi will now be facing Swedish up n’ comer Ilir Latifi instead of top ranked UFC 205’er Alexander Gustafsson. Latifi is one of Gustafsson’s training partners and is stepping up to the plate to battle one of the most dangerous light heavyweights in MMA. This should be exciting!

Akira Corassani vs. Robbie Peralta

Set to open up the main card is an exciting featherweight match up between two dangerous 145’ers. The Swede, Akira Corassani, will take on exciting up and comer Robbie Peralta. Peralta is just coming off of a sensation KO victory over Jason Young last September, and will be looking to increase his UFC record to 4-0-1. Standing in his path is the Swedish striker and Renzo Gracie Combat Team fighter Akira Corassani. Akira was featured on TUF: Bisping vs. Miller, and made it into the semi-finals before being choked out by Dennis Bermudez. Corassani has only fought once in the UFC, a split decision win over Andy Ogle in the finals, as illness and injuries have kept him sidelined the whole latter part of 2012.

Both of these fighters possess KO power on the feet and could end the fight by catching one another on the chin. Corassani has shown that throughout his career and in The Ultimate Fighter, while Peralta showed that in his most recent outting. Corassani is no doubt the more technical striker on the feet, but Peralta’s speed and aggression could allow him to close the gap and force Corassani into a brawl. Expect Peralta to also have an arsenal on the ground as he shown vicious ground and pound from the top position. Ironically, Corassani could very well have an edge on the ground. Corassani has a purple belt in BJJ and has 3 submission wins to his credit as opposed to Peralta’s 2. However, both of these guys are strikers and expect them to bang it out. I like Corassani’s Tae Kwon Do background, but in an MMA fight you have to side with the fighter who can close distance and appear more aggressive. I’m siding with Peralta in a very exciting striking match.

Robbie Peralta via Unanimous Decision

Diego Brandao vs. Pablo Garza

Another featherweight match up here on the main card. TUF winner Diego Brandao will be facing Pablo Garza, a crafty fighter coming off of a win over former title challenger Mark Hominick. This fight is stylistically very interesting. In one corner you have Pablo Garza; he’s a very well-rounded fighter who’s heart and determination is unmatched. Garza poses a lot of problems for fighters because of his tall 6′ 1″ frame. Garza has utilized his knees to knock opponents out, and his long legs make his guard extremely dangerous. On the other side yo have Diego Brandao; a ferocious Brazilian who combines KO power with his high-level grappling ability. Brandao has the power to knock you out on the feet, on the ground, or perhaps put you sleep by other means including chokes.

When comparing these two you have to think about who is going to want the fight where. Garza would have the natural advantage on the feet given he’ll have a huge reach and height advantage; the problem with that, is that Diego Brandao is extremely aggressive and can close distances quickly. He explodes with ferocious combinations and can transition into well-timed power takedowns that way. In what should be an advantage for Garza, can be turned into a huge advantage for Brandao.

I’m predicting Garza to try and utilize his reach and keep Brandao on the outside; however, expect Brandao to find ways inside and display some hand-to-face action. From there, Brandao can use his power and strength to take Garza down and right into an advantageous spot. Brandao’s BJJ is deadly, and look for Brandao to sneak something nasty in on Garza.

Diego Brandao via 1st Rd Submission

Brad Pickett vs. Mike Easton

Pickett vs. Easton could very well be a candidate for Fight of the Night. This is a highly anticipated bantamweight match up between a veteran and a talented up and comer who was on a long win streak before losing by decision to Raphael Assuncao. Easton will be taking on the crowd favorite, Brad Pickett. Pickett has had ups and downs throughout his career, including his loss to Renan Barao and his most recent performance against Eddie Wineland when he lost a close decision. Now, he’s looking to get back into the win column.

Easton brings a relentless grappling game; with a black belt in BJJ under Lloyd Irvin. However, Easton is not a finisher; over half of his wins are by decision and all but one of his fights in the UFC have gone the distance. Easton also has a very good striking game being a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, but he uses his striking to set up his takedowns where he dominates his opponents with a smothering top game and lots of ground and pound. Pickett on the other hand is quite the opposite. Pickett likes to engage in slugfests and goe toe-to-toe with his opponents, but do not be mistaken, Pickett has half of his victories by submission and is very dangerous on the ground.

This is a very hard fight to pick because you never know how Pickett’s opponents will do against him on the feet. Pickett has looked like the greatest bantamweight in the world at times, and in others times he’s been caught looking sloppy. Easton brings a technical approach to his style, so I think that will give Pickett a lot of problems. However, Pickett has faced technical strikers before in Ivan Menjivar and he’s been able to edge them with his crisp boxing. Expect Easton and Pickett to try their luck on the feet, with Pickett landing the better punches; eventually Easton will want to take the fight to the ground. If Pickett’s takedown defense isn’t up to par, he could find himself out-wrestled and out-matched on the mat. But I’m going to bank on Pickett’s advantage in experience and pick Brad to edge Easton on the scorecards in a Fight of the Night performance that truly showcases every aspect of MMA.

Brad Pickett via Split Decision

Matt Mitrione vs. Phil De Fries

Two heavyweights collide in this interesting heavyweight match up. You have Matt Mitrione, a talented striker who was at one point on the fast track to being among the top, against Phil De Fries, a talented heavyweight grappler who has won 8 of 9 victories by submission.

This is a very interesting match up as it is truly a “striker vs. grappler” match-up. Mitrione brings a very smooth, relaxed stand up game that for me personally is very pretty to watch. His footwork is outstanding and he throws punches at the right time to do damage. Unfortunately, he’s on a two-fight skid, coming off a decision loss to Cheick Kongo and a TKO loss to Roy Nelson. He’ll be looking to be impressive in this bout for sure. Against him is the underdog, Phil De Fries. De Fries’s record is really impressive when you look at how often he finishes fights by submission. If De Fries can get you down and in a good spot, chances are you’ll be tapping. However, both of Phil’s losses are by way of knockout and both of them have happened in the UFC.

Expect Mitrione to bring the pressure from the git-go as De Fries isn’t a threat on the feet. De Fries also does not possess a strong, explosive wrestling game that Mitrione should worry about. I’m predicting Mitrione to end this fight early as he pressure De Fries, and methodically tees off on him until he hits home with something that finishes.

Matt Mitrione via 1st Rd Knock out

Ryan Couture vs. Ross Pearson

Set as the co-main event is a lightweight match up between Strikeforce stand-out Ryan Couture, the son of the UFC Hall of Famer, Randy Couture, and Ross Pearson whom is a TUF season winner and also has experienced being a TUF coach during TUF: The Smashes. Pearson brings a high-level striking game, combined with very solid takedown defense. Pearson has a technical boxing style that he used recently to dismantled George Sotiropoulos for three rounds before knocking him out. He’ll be fighting against Ryan Couture, a fighter who has spent his whole career under the Strikeforce banner. He’s compiled a record of 6-1, including decision victories over K.J. Noons and Joe Duarte. Much like his father, Couture is a gritty Greco-Roman styled fighter who grinds his opponents down and keeps constant pressure.

If this fight were to have happened before Ross Pearson joined the big leagues, it’d be a walk in the park for Couture as Pearson really didn’t have much takedown defense and/or stamina to defend the grappling attempts of his opponents. However, Pearson’s takedown defense has became extremely good, so look for Pearson to be all over Couture on the feet and avoid the clinching and takedown attempts of Couture. I’m expecting Couture to demonstrate relentless will, but unfortunately it’ll be at his expense as Pearson should be able to outstrike for the better part of three rounds while defending himself in the clinch and against takedown attempts.

Ross Pearson via Unanimous Decision

Gegard Mousasi vs. Ilir Latifi

Now on to the main event of the evening. Gegard Mousasi against Ilir Latifi. Just to clarify, Mousasi was originally scheduled against top contender Alexander Gustafsson, but unfortunately Alexander suffered a cut during training and was not cleared to fight. So now his training partner, Ilir Latifi, will replace Gustafsson and will face Mousasi.

Not much is known about Ili Latifi, but after doing some research you will find out that he could possess some very big threats to Mousasi stylistically. Ilir is built like a freight train, short and stocky, much like Rousimar Palhares, Hector Lombard, and Jeff Monson. Also, his grappling credentials show that he is a very accomplished grappler and after watching some video, you can conclude that his takedowns are insanely hard to stop. Now, his opponents haven’t had near the amount of experience or skills that his opponent Gegard Mousasi has, but stylistically Latifi is about as perfect of a style as you’d want to go against Mousasi.

Mousasi brings a high-level kickboxing game, along with a very respected background in Judo. He has trained with the Red Devil Sports Club, the home of the Emelianenko brothers, and has amped his grappling to their elite level. Mousasi and Latifi could very well be evenly matched in close-quarters combat. However, the thing that makes me believe in Mousasi is his experience, and his arsenal.

Mousasi is one of the most experienced fighters in the 205 lb division, with nearly 40 professional bouts. Ontop of that add in the fact that he’s fought last second replacements before, and has had his opponents switched many times, it’s all part of being a fighter.

Not only is Mousasi experienced, but he has one of the biggest weapon arsenals known to MMA. On the feet, Mousasi has legit K-1 level striking; he’s competed in professional kickboxing before and he’s very dangerous on the feet. In the clinch, Mousasi is extremely skilled in Judo and will not hesitate to toss his opponent to the mat. On the ground, Mousasi is just as dangerous. When he’s on top, you can expect ground and pound; and not just weak hammerfists to stall the time, but hard punches! Mousasi goes for the finish. When Mousasi is on his back, he attacks with punches and has a very active guard, including lethal upkicks and long legs that are perfect for triangle chokes.

If Ilir has any chance of winning this fight, I believe it’ll be on the ground. His low center of gravity will make it hard for Mousasi to work his Judo, so Ilir may want to tie up as soon as possible. However, that’ll be hard as Mousasi stands tall and very long. Expect Mousasi to pick Ilir apart from the outside and force him into getting desperate for the clinch. From there, Mousasi could chase after top position, or attack off of his back if Ilir completes a takedown. I’m banking on a first round submission from Mousasi when Ilir gets a takedown, but gets sucked right into a triangle.

Gegard Mousasi via 1st Rd Submission