The glow belonged to “Bruce Leeroy” Alex Caceres on Saturday night at UFC on Fox 10.
In an early candidate for Fight of the Night, Caceres handed Sergio Pettis the first loss of his professional career with a rear-naked choke submission at 4:39 of the third round.
The ending was every bit as shocking as the outcome. Pettis, who is the younger brother of UFC lightweight champ Anthony Pettis, was touted as the next breakout star in the bantamweight division. But he ran into a vastly underrated dark horse in Caceres, who has quietly amassed a 5-1-1 record since dropping to 135 pounds.
Pettis had the early edge on the feet. He was able to take advantage of Caceres’ loose and wild striking with great footwork and effective counters. However, the tide turned in the second round when Caceres connected with a straight right hand that dropped the 20-year-old star. Pettis showed tremendous heart and recovered from the punch, but he was never the same fighter after having his brain scrambled.
He seemed to fade in the third round, along with being a bit more hesitant in the stand-up exchanges. Things still appeared to be going in Pettis’ favor, as he hoped to lock up a 29-28 decision.
But Caceres wouldn’t be denied.
The Ultimate Fighter Season 12 contestant cinched up a rear-naked choke with only 21 seconds left in the fight to record his biggest win yet in the Octagon.
At UFC on Fox 10, we learned that there is much more to Caceres than originally believed. The move to the MMA Lab with John Crouch and former UFC lightweight champ Benson Henderson has been huge for him, after he showed early flashes of talent on TUF.
His striking continues to get better with each outing, but it was his grappling that turned heads on Saturday night.
There were some great ground transitions from both fighters, but Caceres was able to maintain top position and win most of the scrambles. It’ll be interesting to see how he does against the upper-echelon sharks of the bantamweight division.
As for Pettis, he’ll take this loss and come back a stronger fighter. To think, he was still a teenager in August with a 9-0 professional record. Not to take away from Caceres’ win, but Pettis could have very well been on his way to a unanimous-decision win, if not for a minor lapse in judgment.
While a win over Pettis won’t earn Caceres a Top 10 spot in the rankings, it was more than enough to put the bantamweight division on notice.
Bruce Leeroy is for real.