The first of six fights scheduled to be broadcast on the UFC 148 pay-per-view features a pair of bantamweights who are almost guaranteed to deliver a great fight in Mike “The Hulk” Easton and “The Pride of El Salvador,” Ivan Menjivar. Easton enters at a deceptive 12-1 overall, 2-0 in the UFC, while Menjivar is 24-8 overall, 3-1 in the UFC. Easton’s last fight was a majority decision victory over Jared Papazian, while Menjivar last submitted John Albert in a very exciting fight.
The reason I say Easton’s record is deceptive is because he’s skated by in a lot of his fights. Most notably, Easton won a split decision at UWC against Chase Beebe that infuriated the online MMA community, particularly Luke Thomas, who took Virginia’s athletic commission to task afterwards with a series of great pieces on Bloody Elbow. Easton also won a majority decision that I personally disagreed with when he beat Jared Papazian in his last fight, and earlier in his career, he won a split decision against John Dodson. If a few judges are in a different mood on three certain nights, Easton could easily be 9-4 overall, instead of 12-1.
And that’s not good, because Easton’s level of competition has not been that great. Think about it: he won a majority decision against Papazian, a split decision against Dodson, and a split decision against Beebe, with the latter truly angering the online MMA community. Easton has really been skating by against sub-par bantamweight competition by UFC standards. By the way, Easton’s SILVA score, which gives him full credit for all of those wins, is still only 43.23.
A look at Easton’s fights shows that he has considerable skill to go along with considerable flaws. Easton moves forward very aggressively, often stalking his opponent, and is very strong in the clinch, with his knees being particularly dangerous. He also has a sharp leg kick and power in his punches. However, he’s not a technical boxer, and really loops his punches a lot. He attacks in flurries, so he’s often able to land strikes anyway, but his accuracy is not good. Compounding this problem is porous striking defense that allowed Papazian to put on what appeared to be a boxing clinic at times. Easton doesn’t move his head well, and leaves plenty of openings for his opponent to score points.
Easton’s opponent, Ivan Menjivar, is similar in that he has good power for the bantamweight division, but doesn’t have particularly good striking defense. In Menjivar’s last fight, he was badly hurt and nearly finished by John Albert, and he was dropped by Brad Pickett at WEC 53. At the same time, Menjivar has some brutal striking of his own, in a good way. He has a very strong jab/right hook combination, and in the clinch, he’s even more dangerous than Easton, with nasty elbows and knees, including an elbow that crushed Charlie Valencia at UFC 129.
This fight will probably take place primarily on the feet, because Easton likes to strike, and has good enough takedown defense to usually keep it that way. When that happens, it’s a very interesting matchup, as I think Menjivar has better technical striking, but he’s also been hurt by strikes more often than Easton in recent fights. If it goes the distance, I would slightly favor Menjivar, but I see Easton as a serious threat to score a TKO here.
SILVA PREDICTION: MIKE EASTON (43.23) OVER IVAN MENJIVAR (43.09)
That’s right, the difference in SILVA is a grand total of 0.14 points, and I think that’s reflective of how competitive this fight is. With that said, I’m actually going to side with Menjivar here, as I feel he has the aggression and the striking technique to out-point Mike Easton, and end up winning by either decision or TKO. But even then, I only favor Menjivar in a 52-48 sort of way, because Easton is just as aggressive as Menjivar, and while he’s not as technical as Menjivar is, he’s just as dangerous.