Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight kickboxers Alex Caceres and Wang Guan will face off this Saturday (Nov. 25, 2017) at UFC Fight Night 122 inside Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai, China.
Caceres has wandered a strange path through UFC. He was thought of as something of a joke following The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), but he proved fans wrong by going on a solid five-fight win streak at 135 pounds. Since that streak ended, Caceres has struggled to find consistent success, winning and losing without making up much ground. Wang, meanwhile, is UFC’s latest Chinese prospect. The 30-year-old knockout artist has a great record, but it’s not against great competition ... and there’s really not much known about “The Dongbei Tiger.”
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each athlete:
Record: 13-10 (1)
Key Wins: Cole Miller (UFC 199), Sergio Pettis (UFC on FOX 10), Roland Delorme (UFC 165)
Key Losses: Yair Rodriguez (UFC Fight Night 92), Jason Knight (UFC on FOX 23), Francisco Rivera (UFC Fight Night 68), Urijah Faber (UFC 175)
Keys to Victory: Caceres is a funky dude. He mixes things up really well on the feet, throwing all sorts of different techniques and trying to overwhelm his foe with volume. He’s also a talented grappler, even if his numerous submission losses would imply otherwise.
There’s not a ton of easily found footage on Guan, which does make this a bit more difficult. That said, Guan seems to fit the mold of heavy-hitting Muay Thai striker, and there are a few things Caceres can do to capitalize on that.
First and foremost, Caceres’ movement should trouble his opponent. Caceres works the outside very well and plays angles better than most. Even if he isn’t the heaviest hitter, simply denying Guan an easy target will make Caceres a more complicated opponent than most the Chinese athlete has faced.
Additionally, Caceres would be wise to mix some takedowns into his attack. It’s an area that he already should utilize more, but Wang’s sole loss — to the only fighter whose name I knew prior to this article — came to a veteran wrestler. If Caceres is looking to confuse his foe with movement and land quick shots, the chance for a takedown will likely arise quickly.
Key Wins: Wang has fought most of his career in China against people whose records are not listed online, so his level of competition is average at best.
Key Losses: Bekbulat Magomedov (RUFF 11). Magomedov is a seriously tough fighter that’s a real challenge for most of the division. Basically, Wang has beaten everyone he’s supposed to but lost to an extremely skilled Russian wrestler, meaning it’s anyone’s guess as to how his skills will hold up in the Octagon.
Keys to Victory: Guan is a bruiser. He has professional kickboxing experience, and it shows in his fights. Much of the time, Guan is walking his foe down and waiting for a response, as “The Dongbei Tiger” is happy to jump into an exchange.
Underdog or no, Guan’s style does match up reasonably well with Caceres.
Caceres is tricky and moves well, but he’s not a heavy hitter. In the past, fighters have walked through his shots to drop the hammer on him with great success. He only has one knockout loss on his record thanks to a strong chin, but he’s been smashed with looping shots quite a few times.
Guan has the strength and power to flatten him. It’s a matter of connecting, and to that end Guan would be wise to close distance into the clinch before firing. If he has his hands on Caceres and then lets loose, he has a fair chance of clipping Caceres as he backs away with his chin high.
Bottom Line: It’s a test for Wang Guan.
Caceres finds himself in the role of gatekeeper. To his credit, he’s only lost to legitimate Top 15-ranked talent since returning to Featherweight, but he also hasn’t put a strong win streak together. Until he does, Caceres is the perfect fighter to test whether or not a UFC Featherweight is ready for the top half of the division.
In Guan’s case, it’s also a test of whether he’s UFC-level at all. Guan doesn’t necessarily have to win, but he has to look like he belongs in the cage with “Bruce Leeroy.” As one of UFC’s few Chinese representatives, there’s a lot of pressure on Guan. If he wins, he’s got a long and prosperous future ahead of him inside the Octagon that could turn him into a star.
At UFC Fight Night 122, Alex Caceres will welcome Wang Guan to the UFC. Which man will have his hand raised?