Easton wants to be best bantamweight
The bantamweight division has a new star and his name is Mike Easton.
The Washington, DC, native looked impressive in his victory over Jared Papazian Friday at UFC on FX: Guillard vs. Miller in Nashville, Tenn., pushing a fast-paced slugfest from bell to bell.
Easton (12-2, 2-0 UFC) claimed the victory on the judges' scorecards, and while it wasn’t his preferred method of victory, it was the type of performance that will put him on the divisional radar.
Outside of bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, the current bantamweight landscape is wide open for contenders to emerge. While veterans like Urijah Faber and Miguel Torres look to regain championship gold, young guns like Easton and Michael McDonald are establishing themselves as fighters to watch in the coming year. This creates an ideal situation for Easton, and he’s more than happy to earn his place.
“It’s one of those things where you put a fighter in front of me, and I’m going to be ready for anybody,” Easton told HeavyMMA after the card. “I’m going to fight them. It’s my job to be ready for anything. I don’t want to step on anybody's toes and right now — it’s only my second fight in the UFC, and I’m focused on improving. I have to prove myself to the UFC that I can and will be one of the top guys. That’s it. When they put me against someone who is up there on the ladder, I’m going to be ready.”
Easton stamped his arrival into the UFC with a second-round TKO over Byron Bloodworth in front of his hometown crowd in Washington in October. His fight in Nashville was originally supposed to come against Ken Stone, but after injury forced a change, he squared off with Papazian. On an action-heavy card filled with knockouts and submissions, the bantamweight matchup stole the show.
“I did what I was supposed to do,” Easton said. “I went in there and put on an exciting fight for the fans. You can’t force anything, and that is one thing I’m not going to do. I hit Papazian with some good shots, and my striking is something I continue to work on. It’s important for me to continue to improve as a mixed martial artist.
“My striking is good, but I want it to get better. I’m a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but I want it better. When you continue to improve, you put yourself in the situation to be the best — and that is what I want. I want to prove I am one of the best fighters in the world."
With Cruz and Faber wrapped up in the next season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” the stage is set for the rest of the division to work itself out. While Easton acknowledges there is still much work to be done, he wants to keep the momentum building and establish himself as the fighter to watch in his weight class.
“I think I’m one of the strongest guys in the division,” Easton said. “I’m one of the hardest hitters, and I don’t stop. I like to keep things going and I love to fight. I have fun in there. I’d like two months to heal up from minor injuries. Training camps are grueling and I’d like to heal up so I can get back in there whenever the UFC needs me.”