The MMA gods don’t care about your hype. Never has this been more evident than Saturday night at Bellator 214. Aaron Pico, featherweight prospect du jour hit another roadblock in his destiny to be the featherweight champion of the world and heir apparent to Max Holloway in the UFC. That doesn’t mean that Pico still can’t get there.
There are so many examples of great champions who lost early in their careers. Holloway lost to Conor McGregor early in his career. Robert Whittaker lost two of his first four UFC fights. Pico is only twenty-two years old, so let’s pump the brakes on this meaning his career is shot. Now, all that being said, he needs to make some changes. It happens often in MMA when a fighter falls in love with a particular skill and ignores his or her strengths that got them there in the first place. Pico had some nice knockouts, and then all of a sudden he thought he was a knockout artist only and totally digressing in every other portion of his game. Pico clearly fell in love with his knockout power. The problem is, he’s a good wrestler and that will probably always be his strongest skill.
Going into every fight brawling is a recipe for disaster, especially as you move up the ranks. At this point, his closest comparable is probably Cody Garbrandt. Like Garbrandt, Pico knows the strength of his right hand. Also like Garbrandt, Pico is getting knocked out in his fights. Pico needs to make changes if he’s going to live up to his potential but let’s not be so quick to bury the guy. Young prospects have to learn. They have to mature, look at Max Holloway. Look at Robert Whittaker.
Let’s not read too much into a 4-2 record. Most 22-year-olds are still on the amateur circuit. This young guy is co-main eventing events at the LA Forum for the second biggest MMA promotion on earth. Give him time because his resume is incomplete. Let’s see how he bounces back from defeat. If he’s anything like Holloway then he will recover fine and be a player. Which I expect. Young fighters go through growing pains, and you can never too high or too low on them.
Let’s see how Pico bounces back before we write him off.