Mike Easton has been a fighter I’ve followed very closely for a long time. He is one of the few high-level fighters from my hometown, Washington, DC. Though he technically ‘won’ the 2009 Sherdog Robbery of the Year against Chase Beebe at UWC 7 in Fairfax, Virginia, it was clear the judges were wrong. Beebe spent almost the entire fight in back control and Easton looked helpless defending against repeated rear-naked-choke attempts.
Later, I found out that Easton had multiple injuries including disk injuries and an arm that was broken so badly that you could see the screws sticking out of his arm during the fight. After that fight, Easton went on a long hiatus to heal his injured body. Almost two years to the day after his bout with Beebe, he violently defeated Byron Bloodworth in his UFC debut at UFC Live: Cruz vs. Johnson on October 3, 2011. Even though the second round featured some of the best knees I had ever seen, the first round showed off a common problem with Easton: in many of his fights there are long periods time time when he does almost nothing. Easton spent much of the first round following Bloodworth around the cage, only tagging him a few times.
He would do the exact same thing in his bout with Raphael Assuncao at UFC: Henderson vs. Diaz. This time, Easton lost for the first time since 2007. Easton was content to stay on the outside with Assuncao and try to pick him apart at range. Rather than using his clubbing power and incredible strength to dominate Assuncao, he was relatively inactive.
A lot of this inactivity is because of his reliance on his trainer, Lloyd Irvin. I recall an interview where Irvin said that he almost has every second of each of Easton’s fights strategically planned before each bout. He is always barking orders and Easton relies heavily on his direction. As a result, when things aren’t going exactly as planned it seems as if Easton freezes and stays inactive.
On April 6, 2013, Easton will take on Brad Pickett at UFC on Fuel TV: Gustafsson vs. Mousasi. If he is going to get back on the path to the title, he needs to rely more on his instincts and athleticism and less on strategy to overpower Pickett. As a Bantamweight, Easton has power that is unheard of in the 135 lb. division. Strategy is certainly important to winning, but the ability to improvise when things aren’t going according to plan is highly underrated. I have personally seen him drop much bigger men in his gym in Camp Springs, Maryland. His nickname is “The Hulk” and if he wants to become champion, Easton has to unleash some of that brute strength and punish his opponents. He can’t do that by staying on the outside and outpointing fighters. He needs to get inside and put them down.