This Saturday night (June 7, 2014,) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bantamweights Erick Perez and Bryan Caraway will face off in the opening main card bout of UFC Fight Night 42, airing live at 10 p.m. EST on FOX Sports 1 from Tingley Coliseum in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
No. 11-ranked Perez was last seen defeating Edwin Figueroa via decision at UFC 167, righting the ship after dropping a decision to Takeya Mizugaki at UFC Fight Night 27, his first-ever UFC loss. Thought to be one of the most promising bantamweight prospects in mixed martial arts (MMA), Perez has won nine out of his last 10 bouts.
"Goyito" is tasked with another tough opponent in No. 14-ranked Caraway, who's been out of action since his UFC 159 "Submission of the Night"-winning victory over Johnny Bedford in April 2013. Despite being known more as UFC women's bantamweight Miesha Tate's boyfriend, "Kid Lightning" actually has some very solid MMA skills.
But will they be enough to topple the talented "Goyito?" Let's take a look at the keys to victories for Perez vs. Caraway:
Record: 14-5 overall, 4-1 UFC
Key Wins: Edwin Figueroa (UFC 167), Byron Bloodworth (UFC 155), Ken Stone (UFC 150)
Key Losses: Takeya Mizugaki (UFC Fight Night 27)
Record: 18-6 overall, 3-1 UFC
Key Wins: Johnny Bedford (UFC 159), Mitch Gagnon (UFC 149)
Key Losses: Takeya Mizugaki (UFC on Fuel TV 8), Mark Hominick (WEC 46), Wilson Reis (EliteXC: Unfinished Business)
Perez is a well-rounded athlete who's never an easy out. Four of his five overall losses have been split decisions, proving that his record could be much more impressive than it is.
Against experienced wrestler Caraway, Perez probably wants to keep this fight standing. "Goyito" has an excellent ground game that's earned him seven submissions, but there's no need to go to the mat with Caraway, a grappler who has scored 16 of his 18 wins by tapout.
Keeping a high volume of strikes in Caraway's face will be paramount to disrupting his takedowns and dictating the pace of this fight.
Caraway will have to prove that he can overcome the ring rust of not fighting for over a year. Perez is a difficult return opponent, so Caraway needs to fight intelligently when the bout starts on the feet.
Hopefully he's been training striking extensively, because his win stats would suggest that he's a bit one-dimensional. However, he's only been knocked out once, making him also incredibly tough to put away.
Avoiding "Goyito's" power shots with level changes and successful takedowns will turn this fight in Caraway's favor. If and when he drags it to the mat, he'll no doubt be looking to secure a lethal rear-naked choke, his go-to move that he's used to win an alarming 10 fights.
Caraway's path to victory is no secret; it's on him to implement his wrestling-heavy gameplan against Perez, who probably knows what's coming.
With the bantamweight division suddenly wide open after TJ Dillashaw's shocking title win at UFC 173, the stakes have been amplified for Perez and Caraway at Saturday night's UFC Fight Night 42. Which rising prospect will pick up a big win in Albuquerque?