The Remarkable Early Evolution of Aaron Pico

The Remarkable Early Evolution of Aaron Pico

Aaron Pico’s mixed martial arts journey has been quite shocking to say the least, as he approaches his fifth year in the sport.

The 25-year-old prodigy just competed in his 12th professional fight earlier this month at Bellator 271, picking up the ninth victory of his career.

For starters, let’s enlighten you on what he did prior to making his mixed martial arts debut:

  • Wrestling:
  • US Olympic Team Trials Senior second place
  • First teenager to make the Olympic Freestyle Wrestling team in 40 years
  • Two-time International Freestyle Champion
  • International Freestyle second place
  • Two-time International Freestyle third place
  • International Freestyle fifth place
  • Won US National Championships in all three types of wrestling: Freestlye, Folkstyle, and Greco-Roman, which is literally unheard of.
  • Junior freestyle record: 34-2 (24 tech falls, only 15 opponents scored a single point on him)
  • Senior freestyle record: 35-12 (16 tech falls)
  • Boxing:
  • National PAL Championship
  • Junior Golden Gloves Championship
  • Won Most Outstanding Boxer award in both of the above tournaments
  • Two-time Desert Showdown Champion
  • Pankration:
  • Two-time California State Champion
  • National Champion in Pankration
  • Golden Cup European Pankration Champion
The guys he beat in achieving these lengths is pretty remarkable as well, especially on the wrestling side of things, given many of them were NCAA National Champions, and many of them also placed at, and even won world tournaments.

Pico beat the man to take the gold medal from him in the Olympic Trials as well, Frank Molinaro, the first and second time they wrestled. He wrestled him four times, defeating him 14-5 the first time, then 4-2 the second time, before losing 3-4 and 4-4 in the their third and fourth matches.

Molinaro went on to win the World Cup later that year, as well as a silver medal in the same tournament the next year. He also won the US Open Championships in 2017.

Ok, so now let’s get into Pico’s MMA career, because now you see why he was the highest regarded prospect ever at just 20 years old:

First, Pico debuted at Bellator 180, an absolutely massive event in Madison Square Garden, NYC. He fought a man named Zach Freeman, who came into the bout boasting an 8-2 record, while Pico was of course 0-0.

Freeman rocked the debuting prodigy with an uppercut early, which forced a shot out of Pico. Next thing you know, Freeman finishes the fight with a guillotine choke in just 24 seconds, and Pico’s much anticipated debut was already in the past. He lost, badly.

This was at 155 lbs, and Pico found his home at 145 lbs in his match up following.

7-3 Justin Linn was up next, which honestly, is still technically throwing Pico to the wolves.

It’s so rare you see someone fight anyone with that much experience right away.

Nonetheless, Pico would win the fight via KO at 3:45 of round one. He did get clipped a good amount in this outing, but it wasn’t enough and a stunning finish comes of his second performance.

12-3 opponent Shane Kruchten is Pico’s third opponent, who he melts right through with a nasty shovel hook to the body just 37 seconds in, before he does the same to 18-8 Lee Morrison, dispatching of him in a mere 70 seconds.

Next came 18-4 Leandro Higo, who was also a pretty big test for someone that’s just 3-1.

Higo had fought a number of former champions, as well as being a TUF veteran that boasted wins over talents that’d been in the UFC. Pico’s boxing was again too much however, as he claimed another KO victory in round one, this time at 3:19.

Aaron Pico went into his next fight with Henry Corrales with that same gameplan and paid dearly for it. He hurt Corrales early on and kept hurting him, but like we’ve seen former UFC bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt do in the past, he saw red, and he got KO’d considering.

This only went 67 seconds into the first round. Still, after six fights, we still hadn’t seen Pico go past the first five minutes. That’d change in his next fight though, as he took on 12-0 Adam Borics.

You see, Borics, like Pico, is a very dangerous striker, and that’s what we ended up seeing, in the end.

We also saw a new gameplan out of Pico, and that was to wrestle. It worked out quite well for him early on, he was mauling Borics at will, but that’s all he did, nothing was being mixed up.

Borics noticed this and capitalized on it with a perfectly timed flying knee. A couple punches later and that was it. At 3:55 of round two, Adam Borics had defeated Aaron Pico, and our young prodigy fell to 4-3.

No one expected that kind of start to his career. Honestly, we expected it to go like Bellator featherweight champion AJ McKee‘s career has gone. Everyone’s story is different though, right?

Well, Pico made some serious changes after this, as he moved out to the Jackson-Wink camp, and he hasn’t looked back since, as he is now on the first five-fight win streak of his career.

This is where we’ve seen the real evolution of Aaron Pico.

Daniel Carey was his next opponent, who came into the bout with a record of 7-3. Fitting right? This may be the first time Pico was matched up with someone of a similar record.

We saw his incredible wrestling throughout round one, and we saw him secure a vicious KO victory with a nasty left hook, which was set up by a kick feint, just 15 seconds into round two.

Pico then fought 8-2 Solo Hatley Jr, who he took down, pounded on, then submitted (rear naked choke) at 2:10 of round one. Two straight wins and two different methods.

Yes, of course, the first was a KO from a punch, something we’d seen before, but he set it up with a kick, then we saw he has submissions.

John de Jesus was next up, who though was 13-8, was coming off a unanimous decision victory over 16-1 Vladyslav Parubchenko. De Jesus is also a knockout artist himself, so he was a considerably dangerous match up.

Pico used his superior wrestling throughout the fight, mauling de Jesus for the entirety of round one, and most of round two. He also knocked de Jesus down a couple times, the last of which came from a thunderous overhand right that finished the fight at 4:12 of the second.

Aaron Pico was now 7-3 going into his fight with 9-4 Aiden Lee, and he looked as good as ever on this night as well.

Pico used his superior wrestling, and also showed off some improved grappling, as he went for chokes throughout the fight, up until he secured the victory via submission (anaconda choke) at 1:33 of round three.

Again, we’re seeing leaps and bounds in improvements, and we’re still seeing something new each time.

The last time we saw something new out of him was the last time he fought, earlier this month at Bellator 271.

12-0 Justin Gonzales was his opponent, who was coming off a win over highly touted prospect Tywan Claxton in his promotional debut. Pico absolutely dominated Gonzales from start to finish, on the ground and on the feet, staying in Gonzales’ grill the entire time.

Credit to Gonzales for surviving, because no one Pico’s defeated before has.

Pico was declared the winner via unanimous decision after showing off a Colby Covington-like gas tank. There was a single 10-8 scorecard in the mix, but honestly, that fight could’ve been a universal 30-25.

All of these most recent outings of his show us such promise.

Remember the first time Aaron Pico fought a 12-0 opponent, he got knocked out. Now he just dominated this one.

This was his first time going the distance, his first time defeating an undefeated opponent, it was the mark of his first five-fight win streak, and now he goes into 2022 in a much better spot than he ended 2019, and started 2020.

Pico did state before that he knows how to box, and that he knew how to wrestle, but he didn’t know how to fight.

Well, Aaron Pico can fight now.

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