Last night (Sat., July 5, 2014) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bantamweights Urijah Faber and Alex Caceres squared off in the headlining preliminary card bout of UFC 175 from Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada (full event results here).
After winning four straight bouts heading in 2013, No. 2-ranked Faber came in off a first round technical knockout loss to former champion Renan Barao in their rematch at UFC 169.
Still one of the biggest stars in all of mixed martial arts (MMA), the 35-year-old Faber was looking to get back into title contention by defeating an unlikely opponent in Caceres.
Unbeaten in five straight fights, No. 12-ranked Caceres was last seen submitting Sergio Pettis at UFC on FOX 10 in January. "Bruce Leeroy" earned a golden opportunity to face one of the living legends of the sport in Faber, but it also promised to be his toughest test by far.
When it was all said and done, Faber scored yet another one of his patented finishes in classic fashion.
The fight kicked off with Faber winging a big overhand right. He got a takedown, but Caceres got back up. The fighters clinched along the cage with Faber landing a knee. Caceres hit a right hand in close, but Faber got a good trip takedown to land in "Bruce Leeroy's'" guard. "California kid" went to work with shots to the body and elbows as he smothered Caceres, who couldn't find anywhere to go. The first round closed with Faber landing a knee at the bell.
The second round saw Faber land a huge right and nail another trip takedown. Caceres landed some good shots from the bottom as he sought a triangle choke. He quickly got back to his feet to land a kick, cutting off the cage with a great uppercut-straight left combination.
Faber snapped one of his own and secured another short-lived takedown. He continued to dominate the wrestling department, but Caceres unleashed some good kicks on the feet. A clinch saw Caceres get tossed to the mat with a big slam, and Faber locked up another round controlling the clinch.
Caceres slipped a takedown to land some punches at the start of the third. The fighters clinched and Caceres broke to score with a right hand. Faber grabbed a kick to drop Caceres, immediately taking his back and finishing the fight with one of his patented rear naked chokes.
It was another impressive finish win for Faber, who has yet to lose a fight that wasn't contested for a title. He looked more than dangerous with his wrestling last night, but he was facing a step down in competition. However, the win over "Bruce Leeroy" doesn't really do much for his standing.
With TJ Dillashaw booked to rematch Renan Barao for the belt at UFC 177 on August 30, Faber will need a couple wins before he gets another title shot. If Dillashaw gets past Barao for a second time, he'll most likely face off with Raphael Assuncao before facing his Team Alpha Male teammate.
Because of that dynamic, Faber's long-awaited trilogy match with returning former champion Dominick Cruz, who is due back sometime this fall, is probably the best fight he has on the table right now. A fight with surging No. 6-ranked Takeya Mizugaki would also be good bout for "California Kid."
He's always destroyed everyone except the most elite fighters, but with six consecutive title fight losses, the pressure is on the aging former champion to prove he can rise to the occasion in the biggest fights.
Caceres shouldn't fall too much with the loss. He was supposed to lose, and he actually put forth a good effort facing a legend like Faber. He clearly has a lot to learn in terms of his wrestling defense.
He'll go back to the drawing board with coach John Crouch at the MMA Lab in an effort to shore up his mat skills. A bout with Francisco Rivera, who recently lost a decision to Mizugaki at UFC 173, would be an exciting match-up for Caceres.
Urijah Faber got back into the win column with an impressive first round submission of Alex Caceres. What's next for "California Kid" as he attempts to claw his way back into another title shot?