- UFC Sweden
McGregor, Pickett and Pearson shine in Sweden
Featherweight phenomenon Conor McGregor and bantamweight battler Brad Pickett stole the show at UFC Sweden on Saturday, on a night that also saw wins for Ross Pearson and Gegard Mousasi in Stockholm.
It would be without exaggeration to say McGregor's debut was one of the most memorable in UFC history. A certain Anderson Silva will always be the standard-bearer - after landing every strike thrown in a 49-second destruction of Chris Leben - but McGregor was not far from that level.
The 24-year-old Irishman had promised to "shock the world" against Marcus Brimage, predicting the fight would be ended inside three minutes. That promise was fulfilled to completion, with McGregor scoring a memorable TKO victory after 67 seconds.
Brimage had won all three of his UFC bouts, including a win over Jimy Hettes, yet McGregor ruled over him from the moment they got heated at Friday's weigh-in. In-your-face aggression is all part of the McGregor package, but it is always accompanied by a performance to back it up.
Blessed with a wide range of striking options, McGregor's final weapon of choice was the uppercut. Dropping his hands one moment, landing front kicks the next, he then rocked Brimage before landing two more uppercuts to send him flying to the mat. From there a series of follow-up shots stopped the fight, and after calling for the Knockout of the Night bonus, McGregor later explained he never wants the Fight of the Night cheque.
"I always feel like when guys will be saying, 'Let's go get Fight of the Night', I don't understand that. To me that's a loss, Fight of the Night's a loss. Because that means the contest has to be close, and I'm not looking for close.
"I want to dominate and get the win. I think guys that say, 'Let's get Fight of the Night', I think that's selling themselves short. You can tell where their career is going just by that comment alone."
Fight of the Night surely had to belong to England's Brad Pickett, who put his name right back where it belongs, in the bantamweight title mix after a thriller with Mike Easton. Two tight rounds were followed by a decisive third for Pickett, who took home a 30-27 28-29 30-27 split decision.
The Brit was coming off a disappointing loss to Eddie Wineland, in which he never truly got into the fight, so upon his return he pushed the pace for 15 breathless minutes. Every aspect of mixed martial arts was showcased, and both men came out with immense credit.
There were times when both men swung from range and landed - Pickett often getting the best of the exchanges. There were others when they hammered each other at close quarters and in the clinch - Pickett exceptional with short elbows. The Brit became the first man to take Easton down - something he repeated several times, and when the fight hit the mat it turned into the type of scramble that left the crowd thirsting for more.
"Being me, I went back to my old ways," Pickett said. "I wanted to make it exciting for you guys out there. My coaches are probably cursing me, but you guys made the sport what it is. Not us, you guys."
Ross Pearson might just find himself in the top-ten of the UFC lightweight division after he ruined the UFC debut of Ryan Couture, stopping the former Strikeforce man at 3.45 of round two. Pearson predicted a tricky encounter with Couture and that proved the case in the opening stanza, but as soon as he found his range the Brit did serious damage.
There were flashes of Ryan's legendary father Randy as he pushed Pearson against the cage and landed strikes in a tight first round that arguably went his way. But Pearson stalked him throughout the second, landing a series of left hooks - one of which hit the sweet spot and he leapt in for the finish.
"It was just patience, timing, not over-committing too much," said Pearson, who revealed he may have broken his foot during his pre-fight warm-up. "I think I'm getting a little bit older, wiser."
The main event, which saw Gegard Mousasi debut in the UFC light-heavyweight division against late replacement Ilir Latifi, ended in a unanimous 30-27 decision for Mousasi. It was to the credit of Latifi that he lasted the distance after stepping in for Alexander Gustafsson, but Mousasi largely dominated with everything working off the jab.
"I had the advantage striking-wise," he said. "I know he's a wrestler, so I didn't want him to close the distance. I fought smart. Some people lay and pray. Maybe I did a little bit of that with the stand-up."
Elsewhere, Phil De Fries suffered an unusual knockout against Matt Mitrione in the heavyweight division, appearing to duck straight into the American's hip/leg before falling to the mat. Mitrione took full advantage, ending the bout in 19 seconds.
Completing the main card were wins for Diego Brandao and Akira Corassani over Pablo Garza and Robbie Peralta respectively.
UFC Sweden results
Gegard Mousasi bt Ilir Latifi via unanimous decision (30-27 30-27 30-27)
Ross Pearson bt Ryan Couture via TKO at 3.45 of Round 2
Matt Mitrione bt Phil De Fries via KO at 0.19 of Round 1
Brad Pickett bt Mike Easton via split decision (30-27 28-29 30-27)
Diego Brandao bt Pablo Garza via arm-triangle choke at 3.27 of Round 1
Akira Corassani bt Robbie Peralta via unanimous decision (30-27 30-27 29-28)
Reza Madadi bt Michael Johnson via d'arce choke at 1.33 of Round 3
Tor Troeng bt Adam Cella via rear naked choke at 3.11 of Round 1
Adlan Amagov bt Chris Spang via unanimous decision (30-27 30-27 30-27)
Conor McGregor bt Marcus Brimage via TKO at 1:07 of Round 1
Ryan LaFlare bt Ben Alloway via unanimous decision (30-27 30-27 30-27)
Tom Lawlor bt Michael Kuiper via guillotine choke at 1.05 of Round 2
Papy Abedi bt Besam Yousef via split decision (29-28 28-29 29-28)