Bellator 271 Preview: Aaron Pico – Justin Gonzales

Tonight on the main card of Bellator 271, one of the biggest prospects in all of MMA will be making his 12th appearance. Aaron Pico (8-3) is back tonight as he takes on the unbeaten contender series veteran in Justin Gonzales (12-0).

Let me just get this out of the way, Justin Gonzales is no joke. Gonzales is a former LFA champion and he won his fight on Dana White’s Contender Series. After that shot on the Contender Series, he won his title in LFA before being picked up by Bellator.

Gonzales made his Bellator debut back in June with a split decision win over Ty-Wan Claxton. In his last seven wins, Gonzales has gone on to finish his opponent. That said, he has an extremely tall order in front of him at Bellator 271.

Aaron Pico was the most hyped prospect MMA has ever seen. Olympic level wrestling with sensational boxing and a ton of power, Pico was instantly signed by Bellator before fighting a single amateur fight. Pico crashed to earth when he was stopped quickly in his debut.

It’s been an up and down story so far for Pico, but he’s finally reaching his potential at the young age of 25. Since making the move to Jackson-Wink, Pico has gone 4-0 with four stoppages in his last four Bellator appearances. He’s getting closer and closer to title contention.

Bellator 271 Prediction

On paper, this is not a tough matchup to predict and it’s really tough when you start to look at both of these fighters. Justin Gonzales is incredibly gritty and he has really good kickboxing with solid grappling. He will be comfortable wherever the fight goes at Bellator 271.

The same can be said for Aaron Pico. Pico has really turned the corner since making the move to Jackson-Wink and he continuously gets better and better. Early in his career, he got in trouble when he would try to brawl with opponents.

Now, he’s much more measured and he will take the fight to wherever he has the advantage. If he’s not doing well in standup, he can take it down. If he’s doing well on the feet, he can keep it standing. Pico will dictate this matchup at Bellator 271.

Most are prediction another Pico finish, but it’s hard for me to pick a guy to get stopped when he’s never lost. I think Gonzales is game and I think he will have success in this fight. However, he won’t have enough success to get over the mountain that is Aaron Pico.

Prediction: Aaron Pico by Unanimous Decision

Bellator books Aaron Pico – Justin Gonzalez

Bellator has finalized a big time matchup featuring two of their best featherweight prospects. ESPN’s Brett Okamoto was the first to report yesterday that the promotion had finalized a matchup between Aaron Pico (8-3) and Justin Gonzalez (12-0).

The matchup will take place at Bellator 271 on November 12th. While many will of course focus on Aaron Pico for this matchup, there needs to be a lot of attention on “The J-Train” Justin Gonzalez.

Gonzalez will be making his second appearance with Bellator since signing with the promotion earlier this year. After starting out his career a perfect 9-0, Gonzalez got a shot on Dana White’s Contender Series back in 2019.

Gonzalez was able to win by decision, but that wasn’t enough to get a contract with the UFC. From there, Gonzalez went to LFA where he defeated the previously unbeaten Jake Childers. That win was enough for Bellator to come calling.

He made his debut back in June when he took on Ty-wan Claxton. It was a close fight, but Gonzalez was able to pick up the split decision win at Bellator 260. Now, he’s getting a high profile fight against the dangerous Aaron Pico.

Bellator title run for Pico?

There weren’t many prospects that have ever started MMA with the level of hype Aaron Pico had. Maybe Brock Lesnar but that’s not entirely fair considering Lesnar’s status with the WWE prior to jumping into MMA.

Pico was looked at as a prodigy and Bellator signed him before he even turned 18 years old. He made his professional debut in 2017 and proceeded to lose in 24 seconds. From there, he won four straight before getting knocked out in back-to-back fights.

After those losses, Pico switched things up and went to Jackson-Wink for his training. Since making that transition, Pico has now won four straight fights again. With this current streak, not a single fight has gone the distance.

Pico is getting closer and closer to a shot at Bellator gold. This is going to be a very tough matchup for him and given the undefeated status of Gonzalez, the winner might only be a win or two away from a title shot. This is definitely one to watch at Bellator 271.

Aaron Pico looks to continue his rise to the top at Bellator 260

Tomorrow night on the main card of Bellator 260, Aaron Pico (7-3) will be making the walk for the 11th time in his professional career. Standing in his way is going to be the tough Aiden Lee (9-4).

Pico comes into the bout as Bellator‘s sixth ranked featherweight while Aiden Lee is just outside the top ten. Aaron Pico will be looking to pick up his fourth consecutive win which would match his longest winning streak of his career.

The last time we saw Pico was at Bellator 252 when he flatlined John de Jesus with a massive overhand right. It seems crazy that we are still only four years into the professional career of Aaron Pico and he’s still only 24 years old.

Bellator signed Pico before he had any professional fighting experience. Pico had been labeled as the future of MMA given his Olympic-Caliber wrestling and his skills in boxing. The promotion rushed him right in against Zach Freeman at Bellator 180 and Pico promptly lost in 24 seconds.

It was a serious back to reality moment for the top prospect. However, Pico would bounce back and win four straight before suffering back-to-back knockout losses. Those losses changed the career of Aaron Pico and made him reevaluate the way he was fighting in Bellator.

Bellator 260

Pico switched to training at Jackson-Wink full time and he changed the way he was fighting. In his losses, Pico was easily drawn into wars and seemed to fall in love with his boxing. Keep in mind, his top skill is his wrestling.

Over this three-fight win streak, Pico has gone back to his routes. He’s mixed in his wrestling which makes his hands look even better. The results have been three straight finishes and Pico is only a win or two away from challenging for a Bellator title.

Tomorrow night isn’t going to be easy for Pico. Aiden Lee has won back-to-back fights in Bellator after dropping his debut with the promotion. In nine professional wins, Lee has submitted five opponents and knocked out two.

This is going to be another tough test for Pico, but it’s one that I believe he will pass. I think the combination of speed, power, athleticism, and technique will win out here. Win or lose, Pico has never gone the distance and I don’t expect that trend to break at Bellator 260.

Prediction: Aaron Pico by TKO – Round 2

Bellator: Is 2021 finally the year of Aaron Pico?

Bellator‘s Aaron Pico (7-3) might have been the most credentialed prospect to ever make his professional debut with a major organization. Pico was an Olympic caliber wrestler and he had incredible boxing talent.

With the striking and grappling credentials he had, many believed he would instantly become a star for Bellator. However, the road has been a lot more challenging than anyone would have anticipated.

Pico was dealt a harsh dose of reality when he lost his professional debut in just 24 seconds. However, he showed very good poise in his ability to bounce back after that first professional loss at Bellator 180.

Pico would go on to win four-straight fights before running into Henry Corrales (18-5) at Bellator 214. Pico hurt Corrales bad in the opening exchanges, but he was drawn into a firefight. Corrales ended up landing a monster shot that put Pico out.

Aaron Pico would then go on to lose to Adam Borics (16-1) in his next fight. After two-straight losses, Pico made the move to Jackson-Wink for his training. That is where the career has really turned around for Pico.

Pico fought three times for Bellator in 2020 and he went a perfect 3-0. However, it was the way that he won that impressed me. He fought composed and he used all of his weapons to get the job done. Greg Jackson appears to be getting the best out of Pico.

Pico’s 2021 for Bellator

Aaron Pico recently spoke to My MMA News where he talked about his urgency to compete in 2021. He said that he wants to compete at least three or four times inside the Bellator cage this year.

When asked about potential opponents, Pico said he’s most interested in fighting the two men who’ve most recently beat him. Of course that being Borics and Corrales. In reality, those rematches do make sense for Bellator.

Pico has all of the potential to be a star for the promotion. It would be a great thing for Bellator if he was able to get those fights back and avenge those losses that he had before he made the move to Jackson-Wink.

I could see Bellator pairing Pico up against those two in 2021. One thing to keep in mind is that I don’t think 2021 will be a title year for Pico. It’s going to take a little more time and he’s been vocal about not fighting his long-time friend, AJ McKee (17-0).

McKee is in the finals of the featherweight Grand Prix and looks poised to potentially become the featherweight champion. If that was to happen, Pico already said that he wouldn’t fight McKee unless it was for life-changing money.

That being said, I don’t think 2021 needs to be a title year for Pico to do something special. In my opinion, I just want to see him continue to progress under Greg Jackson. Pico can still be a superstar for Bellator and 2021 has the potential to show that.

Bellator: Aaron Pico flourishing since moving to Jackson’s MMA

Last night at Bellator 252, Aaron Pico (7-3) returned to the cage to take on John De Jesus (13-9). De Jesus was expected to give Pico a tough challenge in the prospects third fight of 2020.

However, Pico showed once again just how far he’s come since making the switch to Jackson’s MMA. The top Bellator prospect completely dominated John De Jesus from the opening bell to the knockout finish.

In the first round, Pico used his dominant wrestling to control De Jesus. Pico showed incredible takedowns and he showed off his great ground control. De Jesus forced a couple of scrambles, but ultimately Pico got him right back down.

When the fighters were on the feet, Pico did a fantastic job of ripping power shots to the body and up top. What I was really impressed by was his ability to chain together his punches and transition into his takedown attempts.

Pico seemed to have De Jesus guessing all night. In the second round, De Jesus forced another scramble to get back to his feet. However, once they were there, Pico was able to land a massive overhand right that put De Jesus out.

Bellator’s Pico has transformed

Pico’s domination just goes to show you how much he’s evolved since moving over to Greg Jackson’s gym full time. He started training part-time at Jackson’s prior to the loss to Adam Borics.

However, after that loss, Pico decided to put his career completely into the hands of Greg Jackson. Jackson is known as one of the best if not the best trainer in the world. Jackson has trained some of the best in the world.

Most notably, Jackson has been a lead trainer for Georges St. Pierre and Jon Jones. Jackson is known for his brilliant gameplans and his ability to really bring out a fighter’s strengths. Pico’s Bellator career is really taking off since joining Jackson’s.

He looks like a completely different fighter. Over his last two performances inside the Bellator cage, we’ve seen just how dominant Pico’s wrestling is. His hands and power are great, but his wrestling is where he really shines.

Early in Pico’s career, we’d see him rely on one strategy. Either it was completely wrestling or completely boxing. He was drawn into firefights and found himself staring up at the Bellator lights a few times.

However, Greg Jackson has really transformed the way Pico fights. We are now seeing him tie everything together and he’s looking incredibly special. His three performances this year should put the Bellator featherweights on notice.

He’s still improving and he’s still got more to learn, but Aaron Pico is looking more and more like the special fighter we knew he could be. A lot of the credit for that should go to Greg Jackson.

Aaron Pico looks to make it three in a row at Bellator 252

Tomorrow night, Bellator returns and one of their brightest prospects is back in action. Aaron Pico (6-3) returns for his tenth professional bout tomorrow night and he will be taking on John De Jesus (13-8).

Pico’s career has been interesting so far. There was so much hype behind him when Bellator signed him when he was still a teenager. Pico had incredible amateur boxing credentials and was looked at as an Olympic level wrestler.

His credentials along with his natural athleticism had many believing he could be like another Jon Jones. Just someone who could come along and dominate everyone and everything in front of him.

Pico signed with Bellator back in 2014 when he was just 18 years old. It wouldn’t be until 2017 when Pico finally made his debut. With all the cameras on him, Pico failed in his debut losing in just 24 seconds.

It was a come back to earth moment for Pico and Bellator. Since that moment, we have seen a lot of improvement from Pico, but there have been some slip ups. Notably the knockout losses to Henry Corrales and Adam Borics.

The knock on Pico so far in his Bellator career has been his lack of discipline. He is so gifted, however, he wouldn’t always go to his bread and butter. He would get drawn into firefights where his chin was cracked a few good times.

Bellator 252 Preview

Tomorrow night, Pico has the chance to make it three wins in a row inside the Bellator cage. In his last fight against Chris Hatley, Pico really showed off that he can fight with a calm and deliberate pace.

Facing an opponent with knockout power, Pico used his wrestling. While Pico does have good boxing and great speed, his wrestling is where he shines. He completely dominated Hatley on the mat on his way to winning by submission.

Now, his opponent tomorrow night is no slouch. While John De Jesus will come into the cage with a 13-8 record, he has won three in a row. He looked very good at Bellator 244 in his victory over Vladyslav Parubchenko.

De Jesus should provide Pico with another solid test tomorrow night. That being said, I think Pico can win this fight no matter where it takes place. This should be another night where Pico takes a step forward if he fights smart, and I think he will.

Prediction: Aaron Pico by TKO – Round 2

Bellator books Aaron Pico – John de Jesus (Reports)

Bellator MMA has booked one of their top prospects for his next fight. Per ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, the promotion has booked a featherweight contest between top prospect Aaron Pico (6-3) and John de Jesus (13-8). The fight is scheduled to take place on November 12th.

For Pico, he’s going to try to win his third consecutive fight inside the Bellator cage. Pico was known as the biggest prospect arguably in MMA history prior to him signing with Bellator a few years ago. Everyone believed he was destined for greatness.

However, it’s been a very humbling road for Pico thus far. He’s still very young at just 24 years old, but Pico has suffered several setbacks during his Bellator career so far. He’s been stopped three times in devastating fashion.

However, in his six wins, Pico has looked like a world class fighter. In his last fight against Chris Hatley Jr, Pico really showed off his wrestling skills. In the past, he seemed really reliant on his great boxing, but that also led him to getting knocked out.

Is Bellator’s top prospect ready for the next step?

Pico has all of the makings to be a world champion. He’s a very good athlete, he’s got great boxing, and he has elite wrestling. However, he hasn’t always fought with the wisest strategy. You can chalk it up to being young, but Pico has been drawn into some fire fights.

The Henry Corrales fight is a great example. At Bellator 214, Pico hurt Corrales bad seconds into the fight. However, Pico got reckless and Corrales knocked him out cold. When Pico fights smart, he’s going to be very dangerous.

Veteran John de Jesus will present some interesting challenges for Pico. He’s not going to be an easy out and he’s riding a three fight winning streak heading into Bellator‘s November 12th event.

If Pico is able to put together a dominant and complete performance against de Jesus, you can make the argument that he’s ready for the next step. If he falls again, you will have to wonder what’s next in terms of his career inside the Bellator cage.

Bellator: Standouts from Bellator 242

Bellator MMA made it’s return last night after being off since February due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The night was filled with some solid performances, but there were a few fighters who really stood out last night.

Sergio Pettis

The main event of the evening featured a bantamweight contest between Sergio Pettis (20-5) and Ricky Bandejas (13-4). The winner was promised the next shot at the Bellator bantamweight title.

The fight was contested for the most part on the feet, and Pettis put on a clinic. It was not a one-sided beating, but Pettis was clearly the superior striker.

From the opening bell, Pettis put pressure on Bandejas. Pettis did a fantastic job of throwing stinging calf kicks which really seemed to hinder the movement of Bandejas throughout the fight.

SP was taken down once in the fight which was really his only moment of weakness. From the opening bell to the closing bell, Pettis was ahead of every move Bandejas would make.

Pettis now moves to get a shot at the Bellator bantamweight title. The younger brother of former UFC champion, Anthony Pettis, is trying to become the first Pettis to become a champion inside of Bellator. He made a big step towards that goal last night.

Aaron Pico

If there is a fighter in the MMA world that literally has all of the potential in the world, it’s Bellator’s Aaron Pico (6-3).

Pico came into MMA with elite boxing and world-class wrestling credentials. However, he’s gotten himself into trouble very early on in his career. He’s been easily drawn into brawls where he’s been caught.

Coming into Bellator 242, Pico was scheduled to face Solo Hatley Jr. (8-3). Hatley has really good power which could make you nervous as a Pico fan. I really wanted to see Pico utilize his wrestling in this fight.

Very early in the first round, Pico used his best tool in the toolbox. After a brief exchange, Pico landed a massive takedown. Pico looked dominant on the ground.

Just before the halfway mark of the first round, Pico was able to lock up a rear-naked choke and finish the fight. Pico’s performance really stands out because he finally put together a mature performance.

Moving forward, I really want to see Pico use both his boxing as well as his wrestling skills. He’s been too one dimensional early on in his Bellator career utilizing his boxing. This fight should make everyone remember just how good his wrestling is.

Jay-Jay Wilson

The fight wasn’t the most exciting contest, but I came away very impressed with Jay-Jay Wilson (6-0) after he defeated Tywan Claxton (7-2) at Bellator 242.

Wilson came into the contest with a ton of hype behind him. He had finished all five of his professional fights. The 22-year old Jiu Jitsu expert made his debut in Bellator back in 2018.

Claxton also made his professional debut in Bellator and started out by winning his first five contest before losing to Emmanuel Sanchez at Bellator 226.

Jay-Jay came out extremely aggressive in the first round, but Claxton remained incredibly patient throughout the fight. Wilson was able to get Claxton’s back at one point in the first round, but Claxton defended well and didn’t panic.

Wilson was faced with an opponent who would not bend under the pressure. Jay-Jay had never gone beyond the second round prior to this contest. I had the fight 1-1 going into the third and final round.

Claxton did a really good job at putting pressure on Wilson and winning most of the final round. However, late in the round, Wilson secured a triangle position and landed some massive elbows.

This sequence was enough to steal him the round on the deciding judges scorecards. It was a very tough and gritty fight, but the top prospect keeps his 0 in an important victory.

Next Up for Bellator

Bellator will be returning to action in a couple of weeks for Bellator 243. That fight card will be headlined by Benson Henderson and Michael Chandler. This was a good first step for Bellator as they begin to try to make up for lost time due to the pandemic.

Bellator 242: Three fights to watch

Bellator MMA makes it’s long anticipated return tomorrow night from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conneticut.

Bellator is dipping it’s toe back in the pool with a card that features seven fights, four of which are on the main card on the Paramount Network. Let’s dive into three of the key matchups for Bellator 242.

Sergio Pettis vs Ricky Bandejas

In the main event of the evening we have a bantamweight contest between Sergio Pettis (19-5) and Ricky Bandejas (13-3).

Pettis comes into this fight coming off of a win in his Bellator debut back in January. Pettis has been on the biggest stage in the sport now for about seven years. Incredibly impressive from someone who’s just about to turn 27.

Pettis has beaten guys like Joseph Benavidez in the past and he’s also been in the cage with the likes of Henry Cejudo.

Pettis has a very solid overall game. Good distance striking, and he’s very good off of his back. He’s got very good submission skills which he showed off back in January.

In the other corner you have Ricky Bandejas. Bandejas is a pretty good striker who has knockouts in all of his last four wins.

Back at Bellator 204, Bandejas became famous after he knocked out James Gallagher in impressive fashion. However, Bandejas would go on to lose two consecutive fights.

He has bounced back nicely since with back-to-back knockout victories. Bandejas does better when he’s countering aggressive fighters. He’s able to catch guys coming in with his quick counters and good power.

I expect this fight to take place on the feet. While Bandejas has good striking, I don’t favor him at all in a technical striking match with Pettis. Could Bandejas catch Pettis with something? Absolutely he could.

However, I think the fight will take place from range where I expect Pettis to do very well with kicks. Expect Bandejas to have moments, but the output and accuracy of Pettis’ shots will give him the nod here.

Prediction: Sergio Pettis by Unanimous Decision

Jordan Mein vs Jason Jackson

The co-main event of the evening features a contest between UFC veteran, Jordan Mein (31-12), and Jason “The Ass-Kicking Machine” Jackson (11-4).

Mein hasn’t fought in about two years, but he was coming off back-to-back wins in the UFC before making the jump to Bellator.

Mein has fought some of the best guys in the world from guys like Tyron Woodley to the rising Belal Muhammad. Mein has a solid overall game with good striking from a distance. He does struggle with his cardio at times.

You could make the argument that Jason Jackson belongs in the UFC. Jackson fought on Dana White’s Contender Series, but lost due to an ankle injury. Since then, Jackson has gone 4-1 with his lone loss being a split decision loss to Ed Ruth at Bellator 231.

Jackson has really good power and uses a good amount of explosion with his advances. I think that Mein’s patient style could really help out a guy like Jackson over the course of a three round fight.

I think this fight is going to go the distance. While Mein comes in with high expectations in his Bellator debut, I like Jackson to defeat him in a back and forth fight.

Prediction: Jason Jackson by Unanimous Decision

Aaron Pico vs Chris Hatley Jr.

Kicking off the main card of Bellator 242 is a featherweight contest between Aaron Pico (5-3) and Chris “Solo” Hatley Jr (8-2).

Just a few years ago, Pico was regarded as the top prospect in all of MMA. However, his career has not gone as planned so far. Being stopped three times was not part of the original plan.

Outside of his three defeats, Pico has finished all five of his wins within the first two rounds. Pico possesses great boxing with really good power. Pico has elite wrestling that he rarely uses.

Standing across from Pico will be Solo Hatley. Hatley comes into this contest coming off of a win in his Bellator debut. Hatley has pretty decent overall skills and showed a good ground game in his last outing.

Hatley has decent hands due to his athleticism, but there doesn’t appear to be a ton of polish in his striking. He also doesn’t posses incredible striking defense.

Given the skills of both fighters, I’m expecting this one to be contested on the feet. Hatley doesn’t do well with being pressured and he doesn’t have great defense.

For these reasons, I don’t think he’s going to do well with Pico. I expect Pico to fight patiently, but when the opening is there, I expect him to do what it takes to finish this one.

Prediction: Aaron Pico by TKO – Round 1

Bellator 242 Outlook

Bellator is not going all out with their first card back. They have some really good fights, but they are not trying to blow the roof off the place. Seems like a very conservative effort on their part to get back in the game. However, fans should be happy because a returning Bellator just means more MMA fights for fans everywhere.

Bellator: The Curious Case of Aaron Pico

Bellator MMA makes it’s anticipated return tomorrow night after not hosting any events since February due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the fighters that will be making the walk tomorrow night is Aaron Pico (5-3). Just a few years ago, Pico was being built up as the future of MMA. Elite wrestling, combined with elite boxing and good ground skills.

Combine that with the fact that he was just 20-years old when he made his pro debut in Bellator, and you had a superstar in the making. He was looked at as a true prodigy. However, his career has not been smooth sailing.

Up and Down Bellator Career

It was massive news when Pico signed with Bellator. He didn’t start his pro career on the regional scene like most, he went right up to the second biggest promotion in MMA.

Pico made his debut at Bellator 180. With thousands of fans watching as Pico made his debut, Zach Freeman was there to spoil the party. Freeman defeated Pico in just 24 seconds of the first round.

Many were left wondering if Pico was rushed at that point. He has all the talent in the world, but he got defeated in seconds by a guy who wasn’t an elite talent.

Pico silenced the doubters by winning four consecutive fights by first round knockout. Bellator was bringing him along and giving him guys he could fine-tune his skills against.

After winning four straight, it appeared that Pico was only a fight or two away from getting a crack at the Bellator title. However, Pico was knocked out by Henry Corrales in 67 seconds after badly hurting Corrales early.

At Bellator 222, Pico returned and was handling Adam Borics before being caught with a flying knee which finished him in the second round. Pico then went on to knock out Daniel Carey at Bellator 238 back in January.

Where to go?

Pico will now make the walk tomorrow to face Chris Hatley Jr (8-2) at Bellator 242. All of the tools are there for Pico to become a massive star, but I have yet to see him really fight smart.

Again, Pico has elite wrestling, but in his fights, he seems to want to use his boxing. While his boxing is fantastic, he’s easily drawn into brawls where he gets caught.

Tomorrow night, I want to see a complete performance from Pico. I want to see him use his wrestling. I want to see him patient, and I want to see him stay calm. The moment he gets anxious, the moment the fight can turn.

I do believe that Aaron Pico can become a world champion. He’s too good and he’s just 23-years old. He definitely has some growing to do in the sport, and I hope tomorrow night is another step in the right direction for him.