Ivan "The Pride of El Salvador" Menjivar (24-8) is a well-traveled veteran from the Tristar Gym with over a decade of legit experience, much of which transpired in higher weight classes. The composed and charismatic 30-year-old is well known for facing Canadian welterweight kingpin Georges St. Pierre, now a training partner, back in 2001 in St. Pierre's MMA premiere.
With 28 career outings under his belt as a lightweight (or higher), Menjivar's last 4 have been at his ideal weight of 135. His bantamweight debut was a decision loss to #7-ranked Brad Pickett in the WEC, but he's pieced together 3-straight in the Octagon: a vicious 1st-round TKO of Charlie Valencia, a closely contested decision over Nick Pace and a 1st-round submission of John Albert.
More UFC 148 Dissections
Mike "The Hulk" Easton (12-1) is a once-beaten bantamweight who trains with Team Alliance under Lloyd Irvin. Having began his career in 2003, he's no stranger to the fight game himself but falls short when compared to Menjivar's history in both quantity and quality of competition. Easton's currently riding a 7-piece streak and holds wins over TUF 14 cast mates John Dodson (split decision) and Josh Ferguson (guillotine choke), a controversial split decision over former WEC bantamweight champion Chase Beebe and has notched wins over Byron Bloodworth (TKO) and Jared Papazian (decision) in the UFC.
Easton holds black belts in BJJ and Taekwondo and is also a strong, athletic wrestler. Both he and Menjivar are about as well rounded as they come with genuine 3-dimensional talent -- standing, in the clinch and with wrestling and submissions.
Continued in the full entry.
I don't really see any glaring weaknesses or salient advantages for either fighter to exploit. Standing, Menjivar is much more diverse -- he has a nasty spinning back fist, better kicks and cleaving short-range elbows -- but Easton, mostly a boxer, has more power in his hands. Easton seems to be the more physically imposing specimen and might have a slight edge in the wrestling department but Menjivar's Thai-flavored clinch tactics are more potent offensively. Both are adept submission grapplers with good transitions and scrambling and are difficult to finish.
Though Easton has a black belt, the experience and cunning Fight I.Q. of Menjivar, a brown belt in BJJ, might make him a little more dangerous on the mat. However, the likelihood that Easton's wrestling will keep him on top means that he'll just have to ward off sub attempts and maintain position to gain the judges' favor, which seems like the most appealing game-plan for him. Menjivar might be more dangerous as a submission threat during scrambles or in the clinch rather than off his back, and playing guard against Easton is a risky path that he might be forced to navigate.
For a guy with a lot of explosiveness, agility and firepower, Easton has been much more reserved and cautious than I expected -- but that might come in handy against Menjivar, who wisely preys on even the smallest mistake or opening. Menjivar's extensive weapons in the clinch could be limited, as Easton prefers to muscle his way in deep and drop levels to attack the legs and waist. Menjivar also stands a bit too upright and relies on wrist control and underhooks when his opponent shoots, so Easton could catch him off guard with well-timed advances from outside.
I'm leaning towards Menjivar by a narrow margin for his experience and multifaceted offense, but Easton's punching power is a concern, especially since Menjivar has been absorbing unnecessary punishment on the feet lately. Overall, this is a classic pick 'em fight with logical arguments for either fighter winning.
My Prediction: Ivan Menjivar by decision.