It's uncommon for a debuting UFC fighter to find himself thrust directly into the main card of a UFC event, however newcomer Jared Papazian will be given just that opportunity as he steps in as a late replacement to take on Mike Easton in the card's second FX-televised bout.
Mike entered the UFC under unusual circumstances. For starters, when he debuted at UFC Live: Cruz vs. Johnson, Easton was only two days away from having gone two whole years between fights. What's more, although Easton was technically on a five-fight winning streak, the two judges who awarded him a victory against Chase Beebe, in a bout in which he wore Beebe as a backpack for the majority of the bout, were the only two people on earth who thought he won. In his UFC debut, Easton eeked out the first round of his bout with Byron Bloodworth, before finishing the bout in the second after dropping Bloodworth with knees to the body from the clinch near the end of the round.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Easton is a fighter with a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Lloyd Irvin, however he often prefers to try to keep fights standing where he can let his hands and feet fly. Although he has two submissions in eleven wins, to go with his four TKO finishes, both came by way of guillotines. Easton struggled with the grappling of Beebe in their fight, repeatedly finding himself with his back taken and unable to escape from the position, however he should have the advantage over Papazian if the fight hits the mat. In his debut Easton threw a lot of flashy strikes, however struggled to put together consistent offense until resorting to a more traditional approach, and will be best suited keeping things technical and high-percentage when the fight is standing.
Easton enters the bout as a heavy favorite and with good reason. On the feet, he has the potential to outstrike Papazian. On the mat, Easton should have a decided edge against a fighter who has been submitted in 2/3 of his professional defeats. Easton has a preference for standing, so I'm staying away from a submission despite it appearing his best route for a finish, and will suggest Easton by unanimous decision. For fantasy betting, Easton is the biggest favorite on the card at -660. At those prices, just stay away from a play in any form.
Papazian enters this bout on a three-fight winning streak, a relatively short run for a debuting UFC fighter, but filling in on short notice will always make for an easier passage in your UFC career as the bosses look kindly on those who help out in a bind. After losing to sort-of TUF-contestant Jimmie Rivera in his King of the Cage debut, Papazian bounced back with a win over Kana Hyatt, the very same man he'd bested prior to the Rivera bout, earning a title shot against KOTC bantamweight champion Abel Cullum. Papazian won a unanimous decision to win the belt, then followed up with another unanimous decision over Marvin Garcia in his first title defense.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Papazian is a bit of an unknown, as is always the case when a fighter has yet to be tested against the top level competition found in a promotion such as the UFC, however that does not mean he is not a dangerous opponent. With five wins by TKO against only one finish with a submission it becomes quickly apparent that Papazian would rather rattle your brain than squeeze your neck. On the flipside of that coin, in his six career defeats, four bouts have ended with Papazian forced to submit by opponent.
As with Easton, this doesn't strike me as a fight which will end with either man finishing off his opponent, and may well come down very close. If picking Papazian, go with the split decision win for the newcomer. In the realm of fantasy betting, at +620 Papazian is a very attractive play for a straight bet. Easton hasn't proven a world beater yet, and with odds like that Papazian needs only to one one-in-seven times to be a profitable play which is certainly an underestimation of Papazian's chances in the fight.