Aaron Pico celebrated his 21st birthday in style after managing a highlight-reel knockout of Justin Linn just 3:45 into round one at Bellator 183.
It wasn’t smooth sailing for Pico, though. Justin Linn proved to be a worthy challenger (despite what the bookmakers suggested) and was winning some of the close exchanges against the former Golden Gloves boxing champion. Pico’s wrestling credentials showed as he slammed Linn down to the mat multiple times before throwing down heavy punches on Linn.
The finishing blow would come as Justin Linn backed up to the cage and attempted to land a right hand on Pico. Pico answered with a powerful left hook that knocked Linn out instantly. There was no need for finishing blows as referee Michael Bell called the fight over before Linn had even reached the canvas.
After his knockout win at Bellator 183, Aaron Pico commented:
“First of all, hats off to Justin [Linn]. He’s a great competitor and I knew it was going to be a tough fight. It feels good fighting at 145-pounds. This is my natural weight and it felt great. I’m going to have to watch the replay of this fight because I’m not even sure how I hit him, it was just very instinctual. I always knew that I had very powerful hands and I’m not being cocky, I’m just confident because I spar with some of the best boxers in the world over at Team Bodyshop in Long Beach. The key to this fight was just relaxing because I knew that as long as I was relaxed in there, my skillset was going to show.”
The win represented a much-needed victory for Aaron Pico after his nightmare debut against Zach Freeman at Bellator NYC.
Aaron Pico’s initial exchanges were ugly. He seemed to flinch as Justin Linn attempted strikes and seemingly has no way of defending an opponent’s punches. Linn opened up the round with a clean left hand that landed flush on Pico’s nose.
Whether it was due to his little success in the early combat or because Pico game planned for takedowns all along, Pico smoothly skipped around the back of Linn before picking him up and slamming him to the mat. Pico, rather than using traditional techniques, opted to ride Linn and maintain a dominant ground and position (similar to how Ben Askren wrestles).
Linn scrambled and recovered his guard before Pico retreated. Once there, Pico looked at Linn’s standing guard in confusion and was undecided whether to try and pass his guard or let him stand. Referee Michael Bell helped and made the choice for him, allowing Linn to stand up.
Pico backed Linn against the cage and they both proceeded to throw down. It was a stand-off back-and-forth punching battle that seemed like it would only end with one man crashing into the mat. Despite Pico throwing more punches, it was Linn who was landing the more significant blows.
As the two separated and found some more room, Pico continued to advance towards his opponent. Running out of space, Linn attempted a power right hand without a jab to set it up and Pico made him pay with a crushing left hook that had Linn looking up the ceiling as he fell backward to the floor.
Aaron Pico vs Justin Linn
This was a good old-fashioned brawl. It’s the type of fight that we all would have loved to see continue deeper into the fifteen minutes, but no one will complain about the spectacular one-punch knockout that closed the curtains for Justin Linn.
Fight rating: 79/100
Aaron Pico got the result he wanted, but you can be certain that his coaches weren’t satisfied with how many punches Justin Linn was landing. The power is there, that’s now evident to all those who were watching, but the defense (particularly head movement), leaves a lot to be desired. Pico’s takedowns were extremely effective and helped sway the course of the action. Once there, his riding techniques helped him stay in a commanding position. However, there was no threat of Pico being able to finish the fight on the mat and an expert jiu-jitsu practitioner should have success against Pico.
Finish rating: 88/100
Justin Linn can bang, I’ll tell you that much. He has surprising length in his punches and he would often catch Pico on the chin cleanly. Linn chose not to kick Pico, despite him having powerful kicks in his arsenal; it’s possible that he was hesitant as a result of Pico’s takedown ability.
Jake is The Body Lock's Editor in Chief, based in Tasmania, Australia.