A pair of top featherweight prospects collided on the Bellator 271 main card on Friday.
While Justin Gonzales sported a 12-0 record and had appeared on the Contender Series, it was Aaron Pico with the larger profile heading into the fight. While he’d stumbled early, on a four fight win streak, Pico had been building a head of steam of late.
Gonzales tested him early with a right hand Friday, which led to a Pico takedown. No slouch in the wrestling department himself, Gonzales escaped out. Another takedown attempt from Pico was wild and led to Gonzales briefly trapping a leg. Back up, and Pico fired a knee to the body. Through the first two minutes, it felt like a whole lot of nervous energy was in the air, leading to a wild series of exchanges. Pico then ripped the body with a left hook, a blow Gonzales clearly did not enjoy.
The second half of the round saw the pair settle in, though the pace wasn’t what you’d call slow. Pico fired a spinning back kick that sailed wide of the mark, but landed another takedown with a minute remaining. He settled into half-guard, but didn’t have enough time to take advantage of the position.
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Gonzales fanned on a kick just as Pico ducked down to open the second round. Moments later, Pico had another big takedown, and was in side control. While Gonzales moved to his knees, Pico used a front headlock to masterfully transition to the back, getting one hook in. Gonzales grabbed a wrist to keep Pico from fully mounting the back, and then scrambled to his feet. They’d trade for a moment or two before, you guessed it, another Pico takedown. He’d get to side control, but they’d head to a third round.
Pico punched his way in and drove Gonzales into the fence to start round three, before firing a nasty elbow. Pico hit harder, but the key was his wrestling, as 90 seconds in, he had Gonzales on his back yet again. Pico would eventually force Gonzales to give up his back, but Gonzales recovered. They’d go the distance, with a wild final thirty seconds — a first for Aaron Pico, who had never been to a decision.
It was a first for Justin Gonzales as well — the first loss of his career.
Official Result: Aaron Pico def. Justin Gonzales by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)