TUF 27 Finale: Predicting Alex Caceres vs. Martin Bravo
Gritty Mexican pressure fighter, Martin Bravo, takes on one of the featherweight division’s most unpredictable strikers, Alex Caceres, in what should be an exciting match-up.
A Growing Prospect
After being starched in 30 seconds by Humberto Bandanay, we haven’t seen Martin Bravo for nearly a year. His most recent fight before that was in 2016, so it will be interesting to see what Bravo has been working on in his absence. At 24, Bravo is still a developing fighter and could have made significant improvements at Entram Gym training with the likes of Jose Quinonez and Hector Aldana. With that being said, I’m inclined to cap this fight based on the footage available - rather than what kind of fighter Bravo may have evolved into.
One thing is for certain, Bravo likes to pressure his opponents. Against Claudio Puelles, a grappler with very limited striking, Bravo was able to wade forward, unload combinations and eventually drop his opponent with an accumulation of damage. While he looked impressive, he also took some shots and left himself wide open defensively for large portions of the fight. A more seasoned striker would have capitalized in ways that Puelles was unable to. Although he was very young at the time, his lack of defense is on full display in his regional footage too. Perhaps he’s improved this area of his game - but perhaps not.
Can Caceres Finally put it all Together?
When Alex Caceres is on his game, his striking looks marvelous. With excellent footwork, well-timed slips and an unorthodox use of angles, Caceres is usually able to shine against less refined strikers. However, sometimes he looks underwhelming. Although he had some success against Wang Guan in his most recent bout, he was dropped numerous times and came perilously close to being finished in the first round. Guan has been racking up knockout victories for years however, and has forced three opponents to tap to strikes in his career.
Because of his mixed record, some may regard Caceres as a flakey, high variance fighter - but I disagree. I believe the quality of Caceres’ performances directly correlate with the stylistic challenges of his opponents. If you’re an excellent striker like Wang Guan or Yair Rodriguez, you can get the better of him. If you’re an excellent grappler like Urijah Faber or Jason Knight, you can get the better of him. However, if you’re unrefined on the feet and can’t get the fight to the mat - Caceres will style on you. It’s worth noting that in his bout with Jason Knight, a pressure fighter with porous defense, Caceres was comfortably winning the striking exchanges. He lost because he wasn’t able to keep the fight standing, but I think he will be able to against Bravo.
A Contrast in Experience
Martin Bravo has been primarily competing on the South American regional circuit while Caceres’ last nineteen fights have been in the UFC. Bravo’s last two fights were against fringe UFC competitors while Caceres has been going to war with some of the best featherweights in the world for years. This is a huge jump in competition for Bravo, but it’s business for usual for Caceres. While Bravo is known as a workhorse in the gym, I’m not convinced his athletic ceiling is very high. He’s slowed down in his regional footage and will need to be in excellent condition for this bout - because Caceres will be light on his feet for all fifteen minutes.
Ultimately, I believe Bravo has more in common with the types of fighters that Caceres beats rather than the types he loses to. Could Caceres crack under Bravo’s relentless pressure? Perhaps, but my money is with the more experienced fighter who I believe will have the speed, footwork and cardio advantage.
Pick: Caceres -130
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