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Aaron Pico was once the most highly touted prospect in all of mixed martial arts. But, that hype train was derailed by back to back losses in Bellator to Henry Corrales and Adam Borics. But, Pico, who was only a five fight veteran, was thrown to the wolves. With some re-tooling, Pico has found new life and has put together a nice four fight win streak, capped off with the win over Aiden Lee at Bellator 260. In today’s Technical Readout, we look at Pico’s win over Lee and see how he mixes in wrestling in with his heavy hands and what he can do better.
Breaking down Aaron Pico vs. Aiden Lee
The fight with Aiden Lee had Aaron Pico putting in a ton of work while going deep into a fight. While he was disappointed and expressed his desire for a quick finish in his post fight interview, the win was much needed for Pico. Pico went deep into waters and got the win. But the deep waters aren’t easily waded, even by the prodigy wrestler. It took work for Pico to get himself in that position to win against an unorthodox striker like Lee.
In the very first exchange, we see Lee throwing kicks at Pico, keeping him at range. With a couple kicks to the body and head, Pico has his read, makes his penetration step and grabs the single leg getting Lee to the ground early in the fight, setting the tone for the long night Lee would be enduring.
Pico was a classic example of a wrestler falling in love with the hands. But against Lee at Bellator 260, Aaron Pico kept his hands high and parried. While he moved his hands too much on the parry, he did manage to gauge the distance well. He leans back, not always recommended, and catches Lee with his right cross over extended and prime to have his hips taken. Pico shoots and gets the fight to the ground once again.
In the past, Pico would throw hands when he has his opponent on his heels and try for the knockout. Here, Pico lands a jab and has his cross parried, purposeful or not. On the cross, he squares up and is in good position for a trip. Instead, Aaron Pico uses his position to rip the body with an uppercut. Instead of blitzing, Pico cuts the cage off and shoots a takedown on the hips again, going to the mat again.
Here, Pico almost puts Lee away with a D’arce choke. I would like to see more punches thrown from Pico here, especially early on. Expanding the cardio gap would pay him dividends deeper into the fight. Pico’s transitions are lightning fast as well. While he gets to the back, Pico struggles to get anything meaningful started and Lee surprisingly Granby rolls away safely.
Pico doesn’t let the wildness of Aiden Lee’s striking get him into a dog fight. A superman cage punch and lazy flying knee later, Pico has Lee right back on the mat again. One thing that I love that Aaron Pico does here is the short elbow to the body. This isn’t seen nearly enough in MMA and, when in side control, can reap havoc on an adversaries cardio.
We’ve talked about the up kick in a previous Technical Readout. Gegard Mousasi caught Jacare Souza with one in Dream, putting his lights clean out. We discussed the proper form here is to grab the feet, push the hips forward and create space. Pico does not do that here and if not fixed, could be catastrophic. But, he manages to end up in side control and land some brutal elbows.
In full guard, Aaron Pico has a magnificent pass. When Lee shrimps out, space is created and Pico manages to sneak his right knee into the guard and keep Aiden Lee close. Lee did not close his guard which allowed space for the knee. To get past with his other leg, Pico pushes the leg down with his already-passed leg, getting through the guard. After breaking free, Aaron Pico steps around for an arm bar and Lee spazzes out just enough to get out and Pico quickly transitions to a heel hook that he couldn’t quite cinch up.
At the start of the third, Aaron Pico gets more of the ground and pound I’m wanting to see from him. He pushes Lee to the cage and Lee sells out for the guillotine that doesn’t work. Once Pico frees his head, the ground and pound begins.
Towards the end, Lee is turtled up and Pico gets to side control and launches some thunderous knees to the midsection of Aiden Lee. Lee, broken and bruised, rolls over, giving the D’arce to Pico again, securing the victory for Pico.
While he may have stumbled early in his career, Aaron Pico has changed his game for mixed martial arts and become more complete of a fighter. The future is bright and as he improves his skillset, he will continue to recognize the praise he received early on.