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Sportsbook.ag UFC on FUEL TV 9 Preview

Gegard Mousasi (33-3-2) vs. Ilir Latifi (8-2)
Sportsbook.ag Line: Mousasi -800, Latifi +500

In a last-second switch, Alexander Gustafsson is out and Ilir Latifi is in for the headline bout on UFC on FUEL TV 9's main card to take on Gegard Mousasi Saturday afternoon in Sweden.

Both Mousasi and Latifi are UFC newcomers, never having fought for the promotion before. While both are talented, Mousasi is far more accomplished. He is the former division champion for both Strikeforce and Dream, and most notably earned an impressive win against Mike Kyle. Latifi, on the other hand, has no such polish. He owns eight career wins and an impressive physique-weighing 205 pounds despite standing at just 5-foot-9-but that puts him four inches shorter than the 6-foot-1 Mousasi. Latifi will have the crowd behind him, however, as a Sweden native and packs a heavy punch to go along with impressive wrestling skills. If he can take Mousasi to the ground, this little-known newcomer might be able to surprise.

Mousasi's last win was an impressive one, taking down Kyle in the first round with a rear-naked choke submission. He likes to end fights early, with 29 of his career wins coming via submission or knockout. He's a top-notch kickboxer who will have a major height and reach advantage, something he'll have to exploit. He's also deft at judo and is overall a well-rounded fighter who appears ready to take on the upper echelon of this class in the Octagon. But it's also his first UFC fight and he's only had a few days to prepare for Latifi since Gustafsson's withdrawal, and that wild-card factor has to play into the hands of the underdog.

"The Sledgehammer" Latifi has improved greatly since he suffered his two career losses in 2009 and 2011. He just is an unknown commodity, never having fought for UFC or any other major promotion. Latifi will have to avoid an early barrage of blows that will give Mousasi the potential to end this one early, but hopefully a hometown crowd can give him that boost. And he has trained with some of the best fighters in the world, such as former UFC light heavyweight champ Rashad Evans. With this bout going only three rounds instead of the typical five, perhaps he can surprise and stave of Mousasi's attacks and earn a decision victory.

Ross Pearson (16-6) vs. Ryan Couture (6-1)
Sportsbook.ag Line: Pearson -400, Couture +300

In a bout probably more anticipated than the headlining one, Ross Pearson will take on Ryan Couture on UFC on FUEL TV 9's main card Saturday in Sweden.

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Pearson is a former champion of The Ultimate Fighter. Since then he has fought solid competition with mixed results. Overall, he is 3-3 in his past six bouts. Most recently, however, he earned an impressive win against George Sotiropoulos on Dec. 14, winning via knockout with a barrage of punches in the third round. Couture has won his past four bouts, having fought exclusively for Strikeforce and making his UFC debut in this one. His past two wins were close calls-both split decisions-but he has shown a knack for winning, and that's always a good thing. It's an especially good thing against a fighter in Pearson who is talented, but lacks the consistency desired in somebody who is such a heavy favorite. Pearson's three recent losses were to good fighters, but nobody so good that Couture should feel like he doesn't have a chance to do the same.

At 5-foot-8, "The Real Deal" Pearson cedes two inches to Couture in this one. He's shown a versatility in his win history with a near even split between submissions, knockouts and decisions to his name. His most recent loss was a TKO at the hands of Cub Swanson last June. Previously he had lost to Edson Barboza (split decision) and Cole Miller (submission). Strikes make up the majority of the 28-year-old's attack as a deft boxer, who looks to those punches to set up a ground-and-pound style that comes from his developing wrestling game. He'll need to get that going early in this one.

Son of UFC legend Randy Couture, Ryan Couture is coming off a split-decision victory on Jan. 12 against KJ Noons, a former title contender in Strikeforce. The 30-year-old Couture owns the size advantage in this one, and he's shown good tactical skills with the ability to manipulate opponents into advantageous positions. Both of those work to his advantage for this matchup. Pearson's approach runs through his ability to be such a deft striker, but Couture has never lost before the final bell-his only loss came via decision in 2011 to Matt Ricehouse.

Matt Mitrione (5-2) vs. Phil De Fries (9-2)
Sportsbook.ag Line: Mitrione -340, De Fries +260

In the only heavyweight bout on UFC on FUEL TV 9's main card on Saturday, Matt Mitrione and Phil De Fries will step into the Octagon looking to avenge losses.

Mitrione is as talented as they come, but is coming off two consecutive losses, falling to Cheick Kongo in 2011 and Roy Nelson on Dec. 15. The former NFL lineman was formerly on "The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights." De Fries has lost two of his past three bouts, most recently coming off a loss to Todd Duffee on Dec. 29. The other loss was to Stipe Miocic on Feb. 15, 2012, and both were via knockout. That bodes well for the favored Mitrione, who has earned knockout wins in four of his five career victories. His strength is shown in his physique-even though he is inches shorter than the 6-foot-5 De Fries, Mitrione has 15 more pounds of muscle.

In addition to Kongo and Nelson, two interesting characters, Mitrione has fought some of the more recognizable names in MMA. His second professional victory was against the legendary Kimbo Slice, who was TKO'ed in the second round by Mitrione's punches. A talented kickboxer, strikes are the majority of Mitrione's attacks while he also mixes in some grappling-submission tactics. His strength is what he really has going for him, but the 34-year-old is surprisingly quick given his thick frame.

De Fries is a submission specialist with eight of his nine career victories coming that way. That comes from his superior submission skills as a deft Jiu-Jitsu artist. The key for the 26-year-old from England will be earning a takedown, something that the big Mitrione won't easily oblige, as neither of Mitrione's two career losses were via submission. De Fries has a strong ground game to set up his submissions, but he may just be too one-dimensional to warrant taking a chance on this heavy underdog.

  
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