Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bantamweights Urijah Faber and Alex Caceres will square off in the headlining preliminary card bout of UFC 175 this Saturday night (July 5, 2014), airing live on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET from Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
No. 2-ranked Faber was last seen losing a controversial technical knockout to former champion Renan Barao in their rematch at UFC 169. The bout stopped Faber's insane run of 2013, where he won four straight mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts against top competition.
His good friend and teammate TJ Dillashaw won the 135-pound belt with a rousing performance at UFC 173, putting "The California Kid" in a compromising position if he ever wants to contend for the title again.
Faber doesn't want to fight Dillashaw, and he's also failed to secure a belt in his last six chances. Yet he's still one of the most dangerous and popular stars in all of MMA.
He'll look to rebound against No. 12-ranked Caceres, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) veteran who most recently won a double bonus for his come-from-behind submission of Sergio Pettis at UFC on FOX 10 in January. With a five-fight unbeaten streak of his own, "Bruce Leeroy" has a chance to shock the world by defeating one of the sport's biggest names.
He'll just have to win the most difficult fight of his career to do it. Let's take a look at the keys to victory for Faber vs. Caceres:
Record: 30-7 overall, 6-3 UFC
Key Wins: Dominick Cruz (WEC 26), Michael McDonald (UFC on FOX 9), Jens Pulver (WEC 34, WEC 38), Bibiano Fernandes (KOTC: All Stars), Eddie Wineland (UFC 128)
Key Losses: Renan Barao (UFC 149, UFC 169), Jose Aldo (WEC 48), Dominick Cruz (UFC 132), Mike Brown (WEC 36, WEC 41)
Keys to Victory: At this point in time, it's safe to say that Faber is one of the best bantamweights to ever grace the Octagon. He's destroyed every non-champion that's been in his way, and this would qualify as one of those instances.
"The California Kid" brings world-class striking that has been enhanced in recent years thanks to departing Team Alpha Male head coach Duane Ludwig. His top-level wrestling will always be his base, and he is still one of the physically strongest competitors fighting at 135 pounds.
Add that to his lethal arsenal of chokes that can seemingly be applied from any angle, and you have a bantamweight beast who's motivated to prove he doesn't have to make way for a new generation of fighters just yet. He's going to push the pace at Caceres and look for the finish from the opening bell.
Of course he can't get cocky and allow himself to get caught, but that isn't really in Faber's DNA. He's asked for this fight and he's going to perform. The added dynamic of new head coach Martin Kampmann in his corner will be in play here, but once again, Faber is a consummate pro who will want nothing more than a win come Saturday.
Caceres is a rangy grappler who can end fights on the mat, but Faber has never tapped out. On the other hand, Faber has 17 tapout victories while four of Caceres' five total losses were submissions. That could spell disaster for "Bruce Leeroy."
Record: 10-5(1) overall, 5-3(1) UFC
Key Wins: Sergio Pettis (UFC on FOX 10), Roland Delorme (UFC 165)
Key Losses: Edwin Figueroa (UFC 143), Jimmy Hettes (UFC on Versus 5)
Keys to Victory: Caceres has rebounded dramatically after dropping his first two official UFC bouts. His grappling is proficient, as he's shown an ability to lull his opponents into a false sense of confidence before latching on a fight-ending choke.
That's just very unlikely to happen in this fight, so Caceres needs to find another avenue to win. Turning this into a kickboxing war is dangerous as well, but he should know that. After all, he signed on to face "The California Kid," who has never lost a non-title fight in his career.
In order to shock the world, Caceres has to use his height to disrupt Faber's striking and score points with counter shots. A steady volume of kicks will aid him in that task, but he has to be careful not to get taken down in the process. With only two knockouts to his name, Caceres isn't exactly a thunderous striker.
That means a knockout is also unlikely, but stranger things have happened. Faber has been finished by strikes in three of his seven defeats.
The one thing that Caceres has going for him is that he has nothing to lose. He's supposed to lose in this fight, and it almost seems like a foregone conclusion. That could make him sneakily dangerous; however, only the greatest fight of his relatively young career will come even close to attaining that lofty goal.
Laying it all out on the line is his best chance to win. If he can, we could see "Bruce Leeroy" become one of the UFC's bright young stars.
Bottom Line from Las Vegas: The bottom line for this fight is that it's an odd pairing. Caceres deserves credit for his recent streak of wins; that much is not on trial. But he's never faced anyone in the Top 10, let alone a perennial title contender like Faber.
That makes this "The California Kid's" fight to lose, and he'll most likely deliver another rousing performance in this non-championship affair. It'll still be interesting to see how being cornered by longtime welterweight contender Kampmann will affect his performance.
Faber will most likely be hell-bent on making a statement after some behind-the-scenes drama unfolded at Team Alpha Male, ultimately resulting in Ludwig's departure. He also has his good friend and student suddenly ruling his division, so this is a strange fight for Faber.
It could have been a much tougher one, as well. Not to take anything away from Caceres' developing skillset, because he's certainly on the path towards being one of the best bantamweights in the world. On paper, Faber is just on another level.
Regardless, "The California Kid" has never been in a boring fight, and "Bruce Leeroy" is also known for exciting bouts. That makes this fight a great segway into the UFC's Fourth of July PPV, so enjoy the bout.
Urijah Faber will attempt to rebound against Alex Caceres on the featured UFC 175 preliminary bout. Did the former WEC champ deserve a better opponent, or can ‘Bruce Leeroy' prove he belongs in the cage with ‘The California Kid' this Saturday?