Washington, September 30, 2011 – Mike “The Hulk” Easton knows the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
The District native is a professional mixed martial artist debuting in the Ultimate Fighting Championship Saturday at “UFC on Versus 6,” a card taking place at the Verizon Center. The problem is he’s spent several months training for Jeff “Hellbound” Hougland, and now he’s facing Byron Bloodworth on fight night instead.
“I train hard and so my game plan doesn’t change,” Easton said. “I am just going to use the same tactics and techniques I was always going to.”
The changeup comes after Hougland dropped his bout against Easton on Monday following an unspecified injury. The limited preparation time leaves Easton facing a very different fighter in Bloodworth than he would have with Hougland. Whereas Hougland typically seeks submission holds for the tap out victory, Bloodworth is an agile aggressor who likes flying towards his foes with knees and kicks.
“I know Bloodworth’s trying to make a name for himself by beating me,” Easton said. “I’m trying to make my own name as the hardest-hitting 135 lb. fighter out there. We definitely both have jobs to do.”
If Easton sounds like a man hungry to earn some hype, that’s because he is. Shelved in 2009 by severe elbow damage, he’s since remained out of the octagon for two years. Much like his namesake “The Hulk,” he’s also grown green with envy watching other combatants in his weight class pass him by. He now wants to improve the 10-1 record he left behind following his injury.
“Right now I’m fighting whomever the UFC puts in front of me so I can make my way up the ladder,” Easton said. “There are no scrubs in the UFC. Everyone has a chance to be the best and fight the best. You take one fight at a time and focus on that fight.”
So far, Easton’s doing just that. He said he plans on scraping away any ring rust by battering Bloodworth beyond belief come Saturday. The fact he’s making his UFC debut in his hometown, he said, encourages him to throw down even harder.
“Bloodworth has never fought a caliber fighter like me,” Easton said. “He’s in for a rude awakening jumping from whatever organization he’s in straight to the UFC.”
Bloodworth has a few battle scars to prove he won’t go down easily. Sporting a 6-1 mixed martial arts record, he’s also the current Georgia Fighting Championship’s bantamweight title holder. Nimble and a nasty striker, his last fight ended with him knocking out an opponent with a springing knee strike.
“UFC is the culmination of everything I’ve ever dreamed about and worked hard for in the last six years,” Bloodworth says in his UFC biography. “In short, it means everything to me.”
Easton said he has a secret weapon for his short-notice clash, and that’s current UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz. The two are longtime friends and current training partners. Cruz will defend his title in Saturday’s main event against Demetrious Johnson.
“We beat each other’s butts all the times,” Easton said of his recurring sparring sessions with Cruz. “It always makes me better and faster. I know what it’s like to train with the champ and not everyone gets to train with the champ.”
“The Hulk” will likely leave the ring a hero regardless of the fight’s outcome Saturday night. Easton said he’ll have family, friends, neighbors, and teammates from Team Lloyd Irvin Dojo in Arlington cheering him on during his bout. That’s quite the home fight advantage.
“Listen out for my name,” he said. “They’re going to know what we’re about in D.C. and how we roll.”
Mark Hensch is a freelance journalist and former intern for The Washington Times. An avid MMA fan, he believes his love for the sport stems from wrestling and doing karate in high school. It may also have something to do with his large martial arts movie collection. Readers can follow Mark on Facebook and Twitter.
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