Mike “The Hulk” Easton has won eight fights in a row. | Fred Haas/Sherdog.com
Mike Easton has the look of a fighter on the verge of a breakthrough.
A longtime standout on the regional scene, the man they call “The Hulk” has transitioned seamlessly to the Ultimate Fighting Championship, with successive wins over Byron Bloodworth, Jared Papazian and Ivan Menjivar. The 28-year-old Washington, D.C., native will carry an eight-fight winning streak into his preliminary bantamweight matchup with the world-ranked Raphael Assuncao at UFC on Fox 5 “Henderson vs. Diaz” this Saturday at the Key Arena in Seattle.
Easton already holds notable victories against “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 14 winner John Dodson and former World Extreme Cagefighting bantamweight champion Chase Beebe, although the latter was dubious at best. A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Lloyd Irvin, Easton has aligned himself with Alliance MMA, the same camp that spawned reigning UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz -- a man he could someday challenge for 135-pound gold.
Clearing his latest hurdle will be no easy task.
A late replacement for the injured Bryan Caraway -- he had agreed to step in for Easton’s original opponent, Team Alpha Male’s T.J. Dillashaw -- Assuncao has rattled off back-to-back victories since his March 2011 knockout loss to the once-beaten Erik Koch. The 30-year-old Ascension Mixed Martial Arts representative last appeared at UFC on Fuel TV 4 in July, when he put away Issei Tamura with second-round punches at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif. Wins over “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 5 semifinalist Joe Lauzon, American Top Team’s Jorge Masvidal and Tristar Gym export Yves Jabouin anchor the Assuncao resume, which includes nine submissions among 18 professional victories.
The Easton-Assuncao showdown is but one reason to check out the UFC on Fox 5 prelims on Facebook and the FX network. Here are four more:
Sherdog Fantasy MMA: UFC on Fox 5 Free Fan Pick’Em
Jeremy Stephens and Yves Edwards were set to duke it out at UFC on FX 5 on Oct. 5 in Minneapolis, until the long arm of the law got involved.
Their lightweight bout was scrapped mere hours before the event when Stephens was arrested on an out-of-state warrant. Though the UFC tried to post bail for “Lil’ Heathen” so he could compete, the efforts proved unsuccessful and he spent 12 days in jail. The charges filed against Stephens stem from an alleged 2011 assault outside of a Des Moines, Iowa, bar, which ended with a man reportedly being hospitalized. Stephens maintains his innocence.
With a Jan. 9 trial date looming over him, Stephens -- a replacement for the injured John Cholish -- will finally take his swings at Edwards. Neither man has set the MMA world on fire of late, with the former losing two in a row and the latter two of three.
By Any Means Necessary
An 11-fight unbeaten streak has Tim Means on the lightweight radar.
A three-division King of the Cage champion, Means trains out of the same Fit NHB camp that gave rise to former WEC welterweight champion Carlos Condit. The 28-year-old hit the ground running inside the Octagon, with a unanimous decision over Bernardo Magalhaes at UFC on Fuel TV 1 in February and a 66-second technical knockout against Justin Salas at UFC on FX 3 four months later. Means has posted a perfect 9-0 mark since his July 2010 majority draw with Dom O’Grady.
Trujillo will enter his promotional debut on the strength of a four-fight winning streak. The 29-year-old North Carolina native was a decorated collegiate wrestler at William Penn University and operates out of the Blackzilians camp in Florida. Trujillo has been knocked out only once in 13 professional outings.
The featherweight experiment has to this point gone well for Dennis Siver.
The 33-year-old Russian-born German made the move to 145 pounds following a rear-naked choke submission loss to Donald Cerrone and promptly outpointed perennial contender Diego Nunes by unanimous decision at UFC on Fuel TV 2 in April. Now comes the encore and with it perhaps the answer to the main question regarding Siver. Can he become a significant player in the featherweight division?
“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 12 alum Nam Phan will oppose Siver as part of the preliminary lineup. An injury replacement for Eddie Yagin, the 29-year-old California-based Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt is known for engaging in shootouts and has emerged as one of the sport’s premier body punchers. Phan has gone the distance in each of his last five fights, including a split verdict over American Top Team’s Cole Miller at UFC on Fox 4 in August.
Scott Jorgensen finds himself at a crossroads.
With the weight of the first two-fight losing streak of his career on his shoulders, the 30-year-old Twisted Genetiks representative will lock horns with “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 14 alum John Albert on the undercard. Stakes figure to be high for both men. Still ranked among the Top 10 bantamweights in the world, Jorgensen must reverse course or risk becoming a forgotten man at 135 pounds; losses to Renan Barao and Eddie Wineland have left him in this precarious position.
Albert has endured some rough sledding since he needed just 69 seconds to wipe out Dustin Pague in his promotional debut at “The Ultimate Fighter 14” Finale a year ago. In the 12 months since, he has been victimized by first-round submissions from Menjivar and Erik Perez.