From the minute we saw Alex Caceres' grinning mug on The Ultimate Fighter Team GSP vs Team Koscheck in 2010, many wondered if he was substance or show. Due to his look and hair, he was pegged "Bruce Leroy" after the lead character from '80s martial arts musical The Last Dragon, a gimmick for entertainment to say the least. Or was it?
Virtually dismissed as a fraud by his peers in the TUF house, Caceres' had a surprisingly successful showing on the show gaining two upset submission wins before bowing out via decision to eventual season winner Micheal Johnson. Johnson dominated the entire fight, but Caceres survived and lost by decision, and he smiled the whole way through.
The lesson to be learned here is that Caceres proved to many, that he was not to be counted out.
After a false start with two losses in the featherweight division, Caceres moved down to bantamweight last year and has gone 2-1 in the process.
Just how far can Caceres go in the bantamweight division? I don't think that Caceres will ever get a title shot or be the division champion, but I do think he can get into the top ten in the world and here are a few reasons why.
He is only 24 years old
He is only 24 years old and due to his personality attitude and TUF fan following, Caceres will get a lot of time and much opportunity to improve his game. He currently trains at the Young Tigers Foundation in Miami, and will have access to some of the top trainers in the world for the next few years. His potential is undeniable.
Bantamweight is a very thin division
When you glance at all the fighters in the bantamweight division, there aren't too many that stick out as young, dominant sky's-the-limit fighters. The two champions Dominick Cruz and Renan Berao fit that tag, but it really is a toss up after that. The next tier are names like Urijah Faber, Brian Bowles and Ivan Menjivar all men on the down side of their careers. The up-and-comers are guys like TJ Dillashaw, Mike Easton and Edwin Figueroa.
Caceres lost a split decision to Figueroa mostly because he was penalized two points for low blows.
He beat Escovedo and Page right out of the UFC
Caceres proved that he needed to be taken seriously by beating two seasoned veterans when their backs were squarely against the wall. He defeated Cole Escovedo via decision in his bantamweight debut and knocked Escovedo out of the UFC. He also upset veteran Damacio Page via submission in his last fight, and Page was released from the UFC.
The lesson here, don't count Bruce Leroy out.
Dwight Wakabayashi is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report MMA and guest blogger for Sportsnet.ca UFC.