Bellator MMA returns to action tonight as they host Bellator 242 from the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut. The event is headlined by a Bantamweight bout between Ricky Bandejas and Sergio Pettis. We here at The Sports Geek are going to breakdown each of the main card fights and give you a high-value play for every fight. In this article, we are going to breakdown the Featherweight fight between Aaron Pico and Solo Hatley Jr.
Bellator is back TONIGHT!
— BellatorMMA (@BellatorMMA) July 24, 2020
Aaron Pico (5-3) vs. Solo Hatley Jr (8-2)
Wrestling prodigy Aaron Pico will square off against Solo Hatley Jr in a Featherweight main card bout. Pico comes into this fight after winning his last fight in January, a win that snapped a two-fight losing streak. For Hatley Jr, the “IRS Man” has won seven out of his last eight fights, including two straight wins.
This is a matchup that features raw talent against MMA fighting experience. Pico has been one of the top prospects in MMA since he was in high school and has fought each of his eight professional fights inside the Bellator MMA cage.
For Hatley Jr, he has nine pro MMA fights but also had a long amateur career that saw him fight nine times as an amateur, running up a 7-2 record along the way. This will be the second fight for Hatley Jr for Bellator MMA, as he won his Bellator debut against Gaston Bolanos by split decision in February of this year.
Aaron Pico has been the next big thing for a long time, and at times he has shown that he is near the very top of the list of very elite athletes competing in MMA today. Pico was a multi-time wrestling national champion, both as a cadet and a junior, and finished second at the US Olympic trials in 2016 as a teenager.
Pico has several wins over former division one national championship wrestlers and had he decided to pursue a career in wrestling would have very likely become a world and Olympic champion. He was that good, and his wrestling pedigree cannot be discounted. He also has extensive experience as a boxer and in Pankration, as he won national championships in both disciplines.
You can’t design a better prospect for MMA and Bellator realized this early on when they signed Pico to an unprecedented long-term deal, before he ever fought a single professional fight. Fighting on the big stage of Bellator can be tough for a young inexperienced fighter like Pico, and he has had his fair share of growing pains. His 5-3 record certainly leaves something to be desired, and he has shown that his chin needs some work as well.
None of @AaronPicoUSA's fights have gone to a decision!
— BellatorMMA (@BellatorMMA) July 21, 2020
In his last fight, Pico showed that he has true one knockout power as he put Daniel Carey to sleep with a nasty left hook. Bellator wants Pico to win, Nike wants Pico to win, and the fans want Pico to win, but I am sure that isn’t the case for his opponent tonight, Solo Hatley Jr.
Solo Hatley Jr
In the leadup to this event, it has been made very clear who Bellator wants to win this fight, and that is Aaron Pico. Solo Hatley Jr has made it known that he didn’t come into this bout to be an opponent and lose and that he is here to win. Hatley thinks that while Pico has the big name, he is the better and more experienced fighter.
— caposa (@Grabaka_Hitman) May 25, 2019
Hatley would love to build a name for himself tonight by derailing the Pico hype train, and he does have some heavy hands that he throws with bad intentions. Pico has been known to get a little too loose at times on his feet, and if he stands and bangs with Hatley Jr, he is very likely to regret it.
Aaron Pico is an enormous favorite in this fight, and deservedly so. While he has been caught a couple of times already in his career, he is an elite athlete and is still getting better every fight. At just 24-years old, Pico could still very well be an MMA world champion before all is said and done in his career.
As much as Solo Hatley Jr wants to tell you that he wasn’t brought in to lose this fight, that is exactly why he is on this card. Bellator wants to continue to build up Pico, one of the biggest fighters currently fighting under their brand, and Hatley Jr is a matchup that should favor Pico.
Hatley Jr has shown an inability to stop takedowns in the past when matched up against far inferior wrestlers than Aaron Pico. If Pico fights a smart game plan, which is somewhat of a big if, as he does like to deviate from his wrestling quite a bit, he really can’t lose this fight. I would hate to see Pico turn into a ground and pound, lay and pray, type of fighter, as he is potentially so much more than that, but if that is what he does tonight, he is going to get his hand raised at the end of this fight.
When this fight starts, Pico will be moving at a different speed than Hatley Jr, and Hatley Jr will quickly realize that Aaron Pico is on a much different athletic level than he has ever seen before. If this were a UFC event, we would likely have more options to bet on this fight, but as of now, all we have available are the fight money line and the go the distance prop bet.
I will fire on both of these bets and expect that Pico makes quick work of Hadley Jr tonight. I see Pico closing the distance early, getting the fight to the ground easily, and finishing Hadley well within the distance. Neither of these bets are going to pay all that well, as I am laying -600 on the fight and -500 on the fight not going the distance, but sometimes when you have a mismatch like this one, you just have to pick up the free cash.