Ever since he was a teenager, Pico has been under the spotlight first as a prodigal wrestler, who opted to skip college and go the Henry Cejudo route in an effort to head straight to the Olympics instead. Pico came up just short of making the 2016 Olympic wrestling team so he then turned his attention to mixed martial arts where he was already being called one of the brightest prospects to enter the sport.
After nearly two years competing, Pico was 4-2 with a submission loss in his debut and then a stunning knockout courtesy of Henry Corrales in his last performance. He was then matched up against the undefeated Borics at Bellator 222 this past Saturday.
Through the first eight plus minutes, Pico looked like a much smarter fighter as he started to lean on his wrestling to take Borics to the mat rather than stand in the center of the cage winging punches and just hoping for the best.
“I knew he would try to wrestle with me because he’s a really good wrestler,” Borics said about Pico on The MMA Hour on Monday. “He’s a world champion and I know it. His distance was shorter than me and maybe it was a good plan but everybody just thought I am good on striking but I am good on the ground. I was tutored for that.
“I knew that he would take me down but I was prepared for that.”
Borics finally found his opening to get back to the feet with just over a minute remaining in the second round and that’s when he uncorked a huge flying knee that blasted Pico and send him crashing to the canvas in a heap. Borics followed up with a few more shots on the ground but the fight was already over as Pico was down and out after suffering his second straight knockout loss.
It was called an upset at the time but Borics never saw himself as the underdog against Pico no matter how much attention he was getting before the fight started.
“Maybe everybody was a little bit underrating me and I was a little bit upset,” Borics explained. “Because everybody was just talking about him and everybody was like ‘Pico will finish Adam like this and like this’ but it’s OK. We knew it. I’m going to finish him.”
Following the knockout, Borics finally received the attention he was due while the narrative on Pico shifted dramatically from highly touted prospect to potentially wasted talent following his third loss in seven professional fights.
While he was obviously happy to get the win on Friday night, Borics isn’t ready to write off Pico as a cautionary tale of failed potential just yet.
“He’s such a good guy, very talented, very technical,” Borics said about Pico. “People forget but he was a wrestling world champion and not too many people can say that. I really respect that. He’s a boxing Golden Gloves [champion]. He looks like a very nice guy. He’s a hard worker, too. He’s so [motivated].
“I think he just needs some rest and maybe the hype was too much for him because he was crazy hyped. Maybe he was too young for the pressure.”
In Borics’ opinion, Pico might consider a move down to bantamweight where he won’t be giving up as much size and power to his opponents.
Borics definitely felt Pico’s strength in the grappling exchanges but he never felt overwhelmed and the size difference was dramatic when the two began exchanging strikes on the feet.
“I think he is a little bit short and maybe in 135, he can beat everybody,” Borics said. “Because he was really, really strong and I think maybe he can cut more [weight]. I usually cut 20 pounds and maybe he didn’t do that or maybe he just cut 15 or 10 pounds.”
As far as what comes next for Borics, he hopes to gain entry in the recently announced Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix that is expected to kick off later this year. Prior to the event, Bellator president Scott Coker previously stated that Pico could be considered for a slot so it only stands to reason that Borics could get that call instead.
“I hope so I will be in the tournament,” Borics said. “I think I deserve it.”