MMAmania's Brian Hemminger previews Saturday night's UFC: Macau main card fight between Alex Caceres and Motonobu Tezuka. What's the key to victory for both men? Find out inside.
Record: 7-5 overall, 2-3 in the UFC
How he got here: Alex Caceres got his start in fighting on the streets or in backyards in his native Florida. He started training in MMA and refining his technique, going pro in 2008 and winning all of his first four fights via stoppage.
After a rough 1-2 stretch in his next two fights, he tried out for and successfully made it onto the cast of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 12, where he competed as a lightweight. Despite being undersized physically, he won his first two fights on the show before losing a decision to eventual finalist Michael Johnson
Once in the UFC, Caceres faced a much bigger and stronger Mackenz Semerzier at featherweight and he was physically dominated, losing via submission in the first round. He met a similar fate against Jimy Hettes in his next fight and decided to drop to 135 pounds. Since making the cut, he's looked solid, winning two out of three bouts with his only loss being controversial after receiving a two point deduction for a low blow against Edwin Figueroa
Now, Caceres is looking to test his skills internationally against Tezuka.
How he gets it done: This fight is all about pressure and aggression. Caceres has to show no fear against Tezuka and just go right at him either standing or on the ground. He's showcased improved striking skills in recent bouts, particularly his kicks, which have been very powerful to the legs, body and even the head.
If Caceres can get in Tezuka's face, give him little room to breathe as possible, he'll likely be able to make the Japanese fighter wilt.
On the ground, Caceres has improving skills. Don't be surprised to see him try to bait Tezuka into a triangle choke if the Japanese fighter scores a takedown.
Record: 19-4-4 overall, 0-0 in the UFC
Key Wins: none
Key Losses: none
How he got here: Mtonobo Tezuka got off to a very inconsistent start in his professional MMA career. Throughout his first four years as a pro, he never strang together more than three wins in a row and wound up only winning half of his first 14 fights (7-3-4 overall).
Then something clicked. Since then, Tezuka has looked solid, winning 12 out of 13 fights while primarily competing in the Pancrase promotion, also mixing in three wins in one night in a special DEEP tournament.
When Kyung Ho Kang went down with an injury, Tezuka stepped up to the plate on one week's notice to fight Caceres on the big stage.
How he gets it done: Tezuka's best plan of action is likely being aggressive on the ground. He loves to get takedowns and aggressively work for submissions. While it won't be easy to submit Caceres unless he can overpower him on the ground, there's potential that he could at least secure superior position as long as he can avoid being submitted himself.
Another option is for Tezuka to just keep throwing submissions at Caceres until something sticks. Caceres has been prone to being submitted before (all four of his first losses were submissions) so it's not out of the realm of possibility that he could be caught again.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight has to be the short notice that Tezuka accepted it on. He went from not even appearing on the event at all to being one of the key players on the main card in a matter of a week. He had very little time to prepare both physically and mentally and it's a lot to ask of him to not only fight but to actually perform well given the short notice. Tezuka has a tall task ahead of him in Caceres.
Bottom Line: Caceres had an extremely entertaining ground battle against Jimy Hettes before making the cut down to 135 pounds. If Tezuka is intent on making this a ground fight as well, there is potential for some very fun scrambles and some overall excitement. There's no telling how much gas Tezuka will have in the tank so he'll likely be going for broke in the opening five minutes. That's when everything wild will likely happen.
Who will come out on top at UFC Macau? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!