The co-main event features a scrappy couple of lightweights in Sweden for UFC on Fuel TV 9, and what it lacks in star power it should make up for in action. Will Pearson continue the path once laid out for him as underdog, and division stalwart, or will Couture continue his quiet rise despite his famous father's name?
Yes, this fight would be more at home on FX, or a PPV undercard, but we take what we can get, and this is a fine matchup on paper.
Pearson's career has been more enigmatic than it should have been. He came up as a scrapper. Talented, rough around the edges, but a good boxer, and a fighter you wouldn't see lose to the Cole Millers of the world. Except he did lose to Cole Miller. A performance all the more inexplicable given the fact that he gave Edson Barboza all he could handle on the feet at UFC 134 (on the feet no less).
His brief stint at featherweight proved to be a mixed bag, and now he returns to lightweight, likely where he belongs. "A change of scenery" can do wonders if you're in the NHL where you can sometimes be only as good as your teammates, but not in MMA. And so it wasn't with Pearson, who exited FW unconscious, victimized by Cub Swanson's right hand on the unintentionally hilarious Maynard vs. Guida show.
Opposite him is Couture. So far Ryan hasn't looked much like his father, which is a good thing if you're 30. While considered a prospect, he's shown poise under pressure. People sort of expected big things from him based on his name, and while by now observers recognize that he's not a blue chip prospect, he's nonetheless quietly turning into a very capable lightweight.
What both men can do: Thus far, Couture has displayed a jack-of-all-trades ability. He handled himself well in only his 3rd professional fight against the fairly talented Matt Ricehouse, and has since strung together wins over Joe Duarte, K.J. Noons, and Conor Heun.
Aside from the magic trick of being able to convince the judges that he beat Noons, Couture is adept at keeping his striking varied. He has a good straight right, a nice leg kick, and will incorporate unorthodox moves, like a spinning back kick into his arsenal. In other words, he understands MMA striking. While not athletically gifted, he works to look dynamic even if he isn't, and that's an asset all the same. He doesn't have the brute strength of his father in the clinch, but he's inherited some of the clinchwork strengths from his father, knowing when to be offensive in the clinch, and when to counter.
Pearson brings with him to the dance the same thing that brought him: sturdy boxing. One of the things that attracts me to Pearson's game as a long time boxing fan is well...his boxing. For one, a word about his jab. A lot of guys can throw the jab, but too many throw it because they feel like they have to (which is why they'll stop throwing it), or because they use to set up groundwork.
In turn, the jab either ends up looking slow or predictable. Pearson uses the jab as an offensive weapon...piercing opponents with it instead of merely tapping them. He drives with the punch. And it's the reason he nearly beat Barboza...who had the advantage in speed, power, and length.
On paper, this fight has the makings of a prolonged attrition war. But what of their faults?
What both men can't do: Pearson's problem is that despite his boxing prowess, he still leaves his left hand way too low. His problem has come against dynamic strikers: guys who can get in fast with a straight right, like Cub Swanson, and Edson Barboza. Couture may not be a dynamic striker...but he plays the role when he needs to. He can sneak those right hands in, not with the same quickness, but with the same urgency.
It's a tough fight for both guys in my opinion. Both guys do well on the ground as well, but I'd expect Pearson to take it to the ground before Couture. For Ross, he could easily run away with this fight if the bout stays on the feet. Couture runs into intervals of inaction, and even worse, he'll stop moving his legs. His defense on the feet isn't even that good to begin with, especially in response to the straight right.
This is what I expect the narrative to be: Pearson with the jab, right, and left. Couture with the clinch, eating the jab, right, and left.
Prediction: Ross Pearson by Decision.