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UFC on ESPN 1 card: Alex Caceres vs Kron Gracie full fight preview

MMA: TUF 27 Finale-Caceres vs Bravo Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight scrappers Alex Caceres and Kron Gracie will go to war this Sunday (Feb. 17, 2019) at UFC on ESPN 1 from inside Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona.

Caceres has faced several ups-and-downs in his career, including a brief point in 2014 where he was nearly considered a contender. There have been some bad losses as well, but the results are still somewhat impressive if you consider his longevity: “Bruce Leeroy” carries a record off 9-9 (1) into this bout, which will be his twentieth for the promotion. Gracie, meanwhile, is just four fights into his professional career and the latest Gracie to join UFC’s roster. He’s also one of the most decorated, most notable for his 2013 ADCC run that saw him defeat all opponents via submission to take gold. Plus, Gracie has already faced some solid competition given his experience and performed quite well in Japan.

Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:

Alex Caceres

Record: 14-11 (1)
Key Wins: Cole Miller (UFC 199), Sergio Pettis (UFC on FOX 10), Roland Delorme (UFC 165), Martin Bravo (TUF 27 Finale)
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 one of the most creative and active strikers on the roster. That doesn’t always equate to wins, though, as sometimes Caceres is dancing too much and guarding his chin too little. Still, the rangy Southpaw is a better kickboxer than most of his competition, and his Brazilian jiu-jitsu has become a strength over the years.

In this bout, movement is absolutely key for Caceres. Gracie is a training partner of the Diaz brothers, and what do the Stockton sluggers hate more than anything else? Footwork and direction changes! Gracie boxes in the same aggressive, front-foot-heavy manner of the two. Constantly making him turn and circle will allow Caceres to land counters and kicks, as well as avoid Gracie’s attempts to close distance with the clinch. Body shots and low kicks would also be smart here. As Gracie advances, Caceres should be trying to sap his energy and force the black belt to accept a kickboxing match. If Gracie lets his foot off the gas because he’s tired of walking into hard kicks, that will make Caceres’ life much easier.

Kron Gracie

Record: 4-0
Key Wins: Tatsuya Kawajiri (Rizin World Grandprix 2016: Final Round), Hideo Tokoro (Rizin World Grandprix 2016: First Round)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Kron Gracie is not afraid to throw punches or get hit. He’s not the most subtle kickboxer or defensive mastermind either, but Gracie walks down his opponents with combinations and latches onto the clinch to dirty box quite effectively. Then, he’ll either pursue the takedown or pull guard to bring his incredible grappling into play.

Gracie’s approach to fighting is all about forcing his foe to make a mistake. He pushes the pace hard — Gracie has taken the Diaz approach to conditioning as well (running triathlons) — and stays in his opponents’ faces, eventually forcing them to give Gracie an opportunity on the mat.

Caceres does not have 11 losses on his record because he’s immune to mistakes. If Gracie focuses on closing the distance with power shots, he will land. The more Gracie lands, the more likely he’ll be able to toss Caceres to the mat immediately after. Even if he doesn’t land a takedown, Gracie is quite good at pulling guard and either doing damage or landing a submission from there.

Should Gracie keep his activity high, he’s probably going to catch Caceres sooner than later.

Bottom Line: It’s fun to have Kron Gracie on the roster.

As mentioned, the 30-year-old Caceres is deep into his UFC career. At this point, a sudden title run is incredibly unlikely unless something drastic changes. Instead, Caceres has fulfilled the role of gatekeeper, taking on up-and-comers and fun fights. Gracie is both, and even though it’s relatively high-profile, Caceres’ job in unchanged in victory or defeat.

It’s always hard to tell with the Gracies what their objective is. Does Kron Gracie want to be the best in the world, a UFC champion? Or does he want to prove jiu-jitsu’s effectiveness in 2019? The answer will reveal itself when we see if Gracie’s boxing or wrestling have improved since his last fight more than two years ago.

Should Gracie be aiming for the top, that’s exciting. He’s 30 years old himself, but without the wear of nearly 30 fights like Caceres, meaning there’s time for him to grow into a contender. Gracie has already proven himself talented, but to see him really commit to mixed martial arts (MMA) would be fantastic.

At UFC on ESPN 1, Alex Caceres and Kron Gracie will square off. Which man will have his hand raised?

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