Two very dangerous bantamweights will collide this Saturday night (April 6, 2013) as top British 135-er Brad Pickett takes on Alliance MMA's Mike Easton on the UFC on Fuel TV 9 main card in Stockholm, Sweden.
Pickett was on the verge of a potential title shot heading into his last bout after riding a two fight winning streak but he came up short to Eddie Wineland, who claimed the number contender position against Renan Barao. Now, he's looking to get back to his winning ways and it starts by fighting in his native Europe.
Easton was also on the fast track to the top of the 135 pound division before experiencing a setback in his last fight against Raphael Assuncao in his last bout, who utilized the perfect game plan to handle his constant forward pressure-based attack. He'll also be looking to bounce back this time around.
Record: 22-7 overall, 2-2 in the UFC
How he got here: Originally transitioning into MMA from boxing, Brad Pickett cut his teeth in the UK's Cage Rage promotion, winning and defending the featherweight title in his first six professional bouts. After five full years of fighting which resulted in an impressive 18-3 record, "One Punch" would earn an invite to the WEC.
He would make a tremendous splash in his promotional debut, winning via Peruvian necktie against Kyle Dietz in one of 2009's finest submissions which also took home a "Submission of the Night" bonus. He would next appear on the main card of WEC 48, the promotion's first and only pay-per-view against newcomer Demetrious Johnson. Pickett defeated Johnson in a strong showing, handing "Mighty Mouse" his first career loss.
He would go on to suffer his first and only loss in the WEC against Scott Jorgensen in another thrilling bout that saw him take home yet another bonus. Lastly, Pickett battled veteran Ivan Menjivar on the preliminary card of WEC 53 in one of the year's most exciting bouts in a back and forth battle.
The top British bantamweight suffered a back injury and didn't make his UFC debut for nearly 10 months, but when he did, he had a blistering battle with elite prospect Renan Barao but was defeated via first round submission. He put himself on the fast track with victories over Damacio Page and a huge knockout over Yves Jabouin but had his momentum halted by Eddie Wineland in his last fight this past December.
Now, he'lll be trying to put the loss in his rearview mirror with a victory over Easton.
How he gets it done: Pickett has a nice striking background, which should keep him safe in the stand-up portion. He's been known to get tagged at times, but he loves to be aggressive and he's very capable on the feet. This will work to his advantage if he doesn't back down from Easton.
Easton constantly moves forward and limits his offense. It's a confusing style, but if Pickett is equally aggressive with his forward movement, he can counter Easton's attack and really perplex him on the feet with a higher volume of strikes.
"One Punch" loves to brawl and if he can force Easton to get outside his comfort zone, that would be a huge break for him as the Alliance MMA product does not throw his attacks with a high output. The more Pickett throws and the more aggressive he is, the better chance he has of winning.
Record: 13-2 overall, 2-0 in the UFC
Key Losses: Raphael Assuncao (UFC on Fox 5)
How he got here: Mike Easton began fighting professionally at just 20 years old but his schedule was extremely sporadic. He competed just four times during a three year span recently, winning all four bouts. His pace didn't truly pick up until he received his black belt in 2007 and began competing in the East coast's Ultimate Warrior Challenge promotion.
"The Hulk" won his first four fights in the UWC, including bouts with future Ultimate Fighter season 14 competitorJosh Ferguson and show winner John Dodson, which earned him a shot for the title against former WEC bantamweight champion Chase Beebe.
Easton would win a split decision over Beebe in one of the most controversial and heavily criticized decisions in MMA history. After the fight, Easton would suffer a series of injuries and setbacks which delayed his return for two full years. When he finally made his comeback, it was in the UFC against fellow newcomer Byron Bloodworth. Easton crushed Bloodworth to take a second round TKO victory in his promotional debut.
Easton continued his momentum against Jared Papazian, who gave him a stern test and repeatedly pushed him in the stand-up department but "The Hulk" would walk away with a slightly controversial decision victory. It looked like he was headed for big things when he knocked off top bantamweight Ivan Menjivar, but Easton's momentum was halted against Raphael Assuncao the last time around.
Now, Easton is trying to get himself back in the picture with a convincing win over a big name..
How he gets it done: Easton is all about moving forward and utilizing selective aggression. His game entirely revolves around forcing his opponents to move backward and go on the defensive..
Espect to see Easton try to stay on the edge of the pocket and fire off some big leg kicks. If he starts to gain confidence, then perhaps he'll step inside and work some hooks. He's very compact so he doesn't have much of a reach. Thus, if he wants to land more than kicks, footwork and positioning is absolutely vital.
Easton is very strong and he wants to remain composed in the pocket and really try to force Pickett to fight his fight. If he can pull that off, he'll be well on his way to at least securing a decision victory. He has some power if he can plant his feet so keep an eye out for that as Pickett has been hurt in both his UFC losses.