Gegard Mousasi won his long-anticipated UFC debut -- but due to circumstances it felt more like a landmark he wished to simply get through than relish.
Mousasi (34-3-2) dominated Ilir Latifi in a unanimous three-round decision in their light heavyweight bout at Ericsson Globe Arena in Sweden. Latifi (7-3) stepped in on just five days' notice for the injured Alexander Gustafsson.
The fight was slow and one-sided, as Mousasi picked Latifi apart with the jab and easily defended his only takedown attempt, which came in the first round. All three judges scored it a sweep for Mousasi, 30-27.
As dominant as the performance was, Mousasi never came close to a finish. He admitted afterwards he held back slightly due to his own health issues.
"Coming into this fight I was injured and this week I got a cold," Mousasi said. "I didn't go beserk. I thought I had the advantage striking-wise. I know he's a good wrestler, so I didn't want him to close the distance. I fought smart."
While Mousasi provided an explanation for his lack of killer instinct, equally as puzzling was Latifi's game plan to stay completely on his feet.
An accomplished wrestler, Latifi shot just once on Mousasi early in the fight. He refused to even feint a level change throughout the 15-minute fight, even as Mousasi bloodied his face with the jab.
The Swedish crowd got behind Latifi when he landed a counter right in the opening minutes and again when he started gesturing to Mousasi to come forward late in the first round. With 30 seconds left, Mousasi basically fell to his back willingly, where Latifi worked ground and pound until the final bell.
Mousasi has now won 21 of his last 23 fights, dating back to August 2006. The only loss in that stretch came via decision to Muhammad Lawal for the Strikeforce light heavyweight title in April 2010. He also fought Keith Jardine to a draw in 2011.
Pearson punishes Couture for mistakes
Ryan Couture made very few mistakes in his UFC debut, but the ones he did make cost him.
Ross Pearson (15-6) scored a TKO win over Couture in the second round of their lightweight fight, forcing referee Leon Roberts to wave it off at the 3:45 mark.
Couture fought intelligently against Pearson until that point, either forcing the dangerous striker into clinches along the cage or constantly circling away from him. His one error came on an outside leg kick, which Pearson caught and countered on.
"It was patience, timing, not overcommitting too much and letting the fight mature," said Pearson, on what got him the win. "I think I'm getting older and a little wiser. I've had a lot of fights. Practice makes perfect."
After catching the outside leg kick, Pearson dumped Couture briefly to the mat where he caught him with a left hand. As Couture scrambled to his feet, Pearson threw a nasty kick to the body.
Hurt and trapped along the fence, Couture covered up and attempted to circle away but Pearson smelled blood and let loose his heavy left hand. A winging left hook to the chin put Couture down again and ended the fight.
Following a two-fight stint at 145 pounds, Pearson has returned to the lightweight division with back-to-back TKO wins. He stopped George Sotiropoulos in the third round of a fight in December.
Couture (6-2), son of former heavyweight and light heavyweight UFC champion Randy Couture, sees a four-fight win streak snapped. He defeated K.J. Noons in a controversial split decision in January.
Mitrione mauls De Fries in under 20 seconds
As it turns out, Matt Mitrione avoids tackles as well as he makes them.
The former NFL defensive lineman scored a 19-second knockout against Philip De Fries, which was set up after he easily denied an early takedown attempt.
De Fries (9-3) shot in on a double leg but was knocked back by Mitrione's lower body strength. The knockout came immediately after, as Mitrione dropped a series of short right hands to De Fries' temple.
Referee Marc Goddard quickly brought a halt to the action, which De Fries didn't protest.
It's a big rebound win for Mitrione (6-2), who was held to just one appearance in 2012 due to injury. After starting his career with a five-fight win streak, his inexperience showed in losses to Cheick Kongo and Roy Nelson.
"I'm a developing talent," Mitrione said. "I was out for a long time. I appreciate the UFC giving me this fight. The UFC has been great to me. Whoever they think is appropriate for me, [I'll fight]."
De Fries falls to a 2-3 overall UFC record. All three losses have come via first-round knockout. He was finished in 43 seconds by Stipe Miocic in February 2012 and 2:04 against Todd Duffee in December.
Pickett survives war with Easton
It might just be that Brad Pickett simply cannot be involved in a boring fight.
Pickett (23-7) managed to edge Mike Easton via split decision in a grueling 15-minute bout that had UFC president Dana White standing and applauding at the end.
Both fighters had their moments, but it was Pickett who capitalized on them most. He scored key takedowns in the first and third rounds, was better in the scramble and held his own when things occasionally turned into a slugfest.
"I got back to my old ways and started brawling to make it exciting for you guys out here," Pickett said. "I would love another opponent like Mike Easton, who brought it 100 percent. That's the type of fights I want. I enjoyed it."
Scrambles turned into a major theme of the fight, as both bantamweights showcased good takedown defense. Pickett thwarted several shots by Easton (13-3) in the first round, which helped set up a short right elbow along the fence.
Pickett had success throughout with his offensive wrestling, slamming Easton to the mat multiple times, but had trouble keeping him there. He attempted several guillotines as Easton scrambled back to his feet but was never close to a finish.
Two judges scored every round in Pickett's favor, while the third scored it 29-28 for Easton.
Pickett rebounds from a split decision loss to Eddie Wineland at UFC 155. He is 3-1 in his last four fights.
Easton suffers his second consecutive loss. He dropped a unanimous decision to Raphael Assuncao in December.
Brandao chokes out Garza
Brandao (16-8) outfoxed the 6-foot-1 Garza perfectly by staying on the far outside early on in the fight before closing the distance to set up a takedown. The Brazilian admitted after the fight he had no interest in trading punches with Garza.
"Because he's so tall and long, we didn't want to strike too much," Brandao said.
Garza (12-3) did land a nice leg kick/straight right punch combination two minutes into the fight, but that would prove to be about all in terms of his offense. Brandao shot in on a bodylock and then ignited the Swedish crowd with a beautiful body slam.
From there it was total domination by Brandao, as he passed Garza's guard, thought about full mount but settled into side control. A few elbows got Garza in defensive mode and Brandao saw his opportunity for the submission. The tap came at 3:27 of the round.
Brandao collects the 13th finish of his career and second in the Octagon. He submitted Dennis Bermudez in the first round of his UFC debut in December 2011.
Garza drops to 3-3 in the UFC and just 1-3 in his last four fights.
Corassani outboxes dangerous Peralta
Akira Corassani improved to 2-0 in the UFC with a decision win over Robbie Peralta.
The Swedish featherweight caught a nasty left hook to the chin in the second round, but was mostly in control otherwise. All three judges scored the bout for Corassani 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
"I was rocked as hell," Corassani said about the left hook. "I train with [boxing coach] Mark Henry. That means footwork and intelligence. That's it."
Corassani (11-3) showcased that footwork best in the opening round, circling away from Peralta while feeding him a steady diet of jabs.
Frustrated by Corassani's movement, Peralta (16-4) looked to take him down early in the second round. The takedown attempts were unsuccessful, but Peralta got the momentum swing he was looking for when he cracked Corassani with the left hook.
Dazed, Corassani was knocked down moments later by a knee from Peralta. He would manage to work back to his feet, though, and hurt Peralta late in the round with a straight right.
The final frame was dictated completely by Corassani, as he slowed down his opponent with multiple takedowns and pressure along the fence.
The loss snaps a 10-fight unbeaten streak for Peralta. The California-based fighter falls to a 1-1 overall record in the Octagon.