Photo: Chris Carlson (AP)

Forty-five seconds into his fight with Henry Corrales at Bellator 214, blue-chip prospect Aaron Pico unleashed a devastating uppercut. Corrales hit the deck, his opponent sensed blood in the water, and yet another Aaron Pico fight seemed headed for an early end. Six matches into his pro career with Bellator, Pico has still never seen a second round.

This one also ended in the first round, but Corrales came out the winner. He surprised Pico with a right hook directly on the jaw as Pico recklessly went for the finish.

Pico is considered one of the hottest prospects in the entire MMA world because he’s both a decorated boxer as well as a proficient wrestler, but so far into his career, he seems pretty much dedicated to standing and throwing. When he lands, say, the crippling liver shot of a lifetime, that strategy seems flawless. When he finally met someone he couldn’t starch with a single power shot, it showed how far he still has to go.

As soon as Pico landed the knockdown uppercut, he abandoned all defensive principles and leapt in to find a finish that just wasn’t there. In the sequence immediately leading up to the finish, Pico snaps in a left hand at Corrales’s liver in the clinch three times in a row without ever covering up his head. Not only was that sort of punch in close quarters never going to knock out Corrales that early in the fight, but Pico basically invited Corrales to exploit the opening.

Advertisement

Pico still has the tools to become a star, and he knows his “rookie mistake” is a good learning moment, but if he wants to take down the sport’s best featherweights, he’ll need to learn to defend himself. Otherwise, he’s going to get owned again.