Mike “The Hulk” Easton deserves some props for his accomplishments in the UFC thus far.

Sure, he doesn’t get the same love as Michael “Mayday” McDonald or UFC interim bantamweight champion Renan Barao, but aside from a broken arm in his 2007 bout with Reynaldo Duarte and his controversial split decision win at UWC 7 over then-contender and former WEC bantamweight champion Chase Beebe, Easton carried a bit of a momentum train into his UFC run.

Of course, anyone can understand why he would have some momentum to his name. Easton demonstrates an aggressive technical striking arsenal with solid takedown defense, an iron chin and an eerie display of patience that seems to compliment his head and body movement more often than not. Unless someone can find his chin at will, breaks his arm or penetrates through his seemingly unstoppable takedown defense, nobody can or will stop Easton at this level of competition.

Raphael Assuncao, a late-replacement opponent stepping in for Bryan Caraway, aims to stop Easton and his momentum train at UFC on Fox 5 in Seattle this upcoming Saturday, and considering Assuncao’s ground game, the former WEC standout might prove a second case of a superior grappler outworking a usually superior striker.

That said, Easton benefits well from displaying his takedown defense and forcing Assuncao to wing his strikes on Saturday night, or sticking to whatever game plan his team conjured with intentions to stifle and stop Assuncao.

As a matter of fact, earning a win over Assuncao in general stands to benefit Easton’s chances of a potential shot at teammate and current champion Dominick Cruz, unless Barao or McDonald takes the title off of Cruz before Easton gets his shot.

See, Easton and his 3-0 UFC run produced memorable outings aside from him just winning three bouts. He debuted with a bang in his second-round TKO of Byron Bloodworth at UFC on Versus 6, he won a majority decision against Jared Papazian in a UFC on FX 1 thriller, and he earned a unanimous decision against Ivan Menjivar at UFC 148.

Easton already beat the former KOTC champ Papazian (unless you’re like me and wanted to call that one a draw) and he already owns a win over the diverse welterweight-turned-bantamweight Menjivar. So, really speaking, nobody can accuse Easton’s record of featuring nobodies. However, he must keep his track record alive and continue stringing together impressive wins over impressive opponents, a bill which Assuncao just happens to fit.

Although Assuncao’s two-fight winning streak doesn’t stick him in line for a title shot, he remains a noteworthy name in the division nonetheless. He takes a bit of a step up in replacing Caraway, who in turn was a replacement for TJ Dillashaw, against Easton. Assuncao likely poses zero threat to the division’s top contenders, but whereas a win may not appear to do much for Easton, on the flip side of things it will actually eventually serve as proof of what he may accomplish if thrown into the fire against a higher-level grappler.

Remember, “meaningless fights” don’t stay meaningless for very long in mixed martial arts. Eventually, even the strength of a win on the preliminary card can play some role in the progression of a prospect and their evolution into a legitimate title contender.

Such a scenario applies to Easton as he prepares for Assuncao. Easton went from the fourth Facebook fight of the UFC’s final Versus card to one of 2012’s best fights in the UFC’s FX debut, and then from the main-card opener of one of the UFC’s most successful pay-per-view cards of 2012 to the FX portion of the UFC’s most loaded outing on Fox.

As time progresses and Easton evolves, he slowly continues to cement his stature as one of the must-see bantamweights not named Cruz or Barao. If that process continues with a domination of Assuncao in Seattle and an extension of his current UFC winning streak, expect Easton to remain in title consideration by the night’s end, and don’t count out the prospect of Easton earning himself a crack at some gold in 2013.

Photo: Mike “The Hulk” Easton (grey trunks), who will face Raphael Assuncao at UFC on Fox 5 in Seattle (Fred Haas/Sherdog)

About The Author

Dale De Souza
Staff Writer

Dale De Souza is a 22-year-old kid straight out of Texas, who grew up around Professional Wrestling but embraced the beauty of Mixed Martial Arts and Combat Sports at a young age. Dale is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report MMA, a writer at The MMA Corner.

  • Daniel

    Good review

    Could have emphasized Assunção coming to the fight with 2week trainning.