There may not have been a ton of buzz surrounding Alex Caceres heading into his bout with Sergio Pettis at UFC on Fox 10, but "Bruce Leeroy" gave the MMA world plenty to talk about in the aftermath of the event.
Despite the 25-year-old Floridian having gone 4-1 (1 NC) in his six showings since dropping down to the bantamweight division in late 2011, the lion's share of the talk heading into the 135-pound scrap focused on the younger of the Pettis brothers.
The 20-year-old Milwaukee native had found victory in his first 10 fights as a professional, which included an impressive and triumphant Octagon debut at UFC 167 back in November, when he earned a lopsided unanimous decision over Will Campuzano in Las Vegas.
With solid momentum and high expectations based off Pettis' family pedigree, the bout with Caceres in Chicago was figured by some to be another showcase bout for "The Phenom." When the action got underway on Saturday night at the United Center, that certainly appeared to be the case. Pettis used his speed and accuracy to pepper The Ultimate Fighter season 12 alum throughout the opening round.
While Caceres was on the business end of things in the first round, he was able to turn the tables abruptly in the second round. He dropped Pettis with a crisp straight left that put the Duke Roufus-trained fighter on the canvas and in a world of trouble midway through the frame. That said, Pettis was able to survive the rough spot and made it through to the end of the round.
"I felt like I was firing on all cylinders in the second round," Caceres told Bleacher Report. "Once I dropped him, it definitely slowed his roll. He was really fast and definitely knew how to use his striking abilities very well. When I hit him with that punch...I thought he was out. Obviously he wasn't, but it definitely slowed him down a little bit and made him think about that cross again. It helped me open things up a little bit more."
Although the MMA Lab product had a bright spot in the middle round, there was a good chance he was down 2-0 on the judges' cards. Caceres fired out of the gates aggressively in the final stanza, but Pettis was able to take control as the round wore on and appeared to be on his way to picking up his second victory under the UFC banner.
Nevertheless, Caceres refused to go into the loss column quietly.
When the action hit the canvas with less than a minute on the clock, he used his sense of urgency as fuel and fought to find an opening. With 30 seconds remaining, Caceres sunk in a rear-naked choke and forced the highly touted prospect to tap with 21 seconds left in the fight. Adding Pettis' name to his resume is an impressive feat, but proving his resilience and notching the comeback win show Caceres has heart for days.
The intangible aspects of a fighter's skill set are the most difficult to show, but those are the elements Caceres believes he's most in tune with.
"I feel like I'm falling into sync with who I truly was and am," Caceres said. "I think the problem was that I forgot who I was, and I'm coming back into myself. I'm definitely getting better every single day. I feel that in the near future, I should be seeing a better version of myself every single time I step into that cage."
While Pettis' name may not be worth its weight in gold at this exact moment in time, his victory certainly proved to be lucrative. In addition to the substantial amount of buzz Caceres jacked by defeating Pettis, he also picked up $100,000 worth of bonus checks with Fight of the Night and Submission of the Night honors.
Derailing the ascension of a talented young fighter and picking up a hefty pair of bonus checks make for a great night at the office. And while Caceres was happy with the overall outcome and to be recognized for the work he put in on Saturday night, the financial aspect of his night at UFC on Fox 10 was the furthest thing from his mind.
"Immediately after I knew I had Fight of the Night," Caceres said. "Then I was hoping no one else got a submission because there was a pretty good chance I was going to get Submission of the Night as well. There was only one other submission, and it wasn't as spectacular as mine. I knew I had them both, and it has already sunk in. The money doesn't bother me too much. Money for me is a tool to achieve my actual dream, which is to never ever use money again. I definitely want to distance myself from materialism as far as possible.
"It doesn't really matter to me, man," he added in regard to what he'd like to see next. "I just want to get back into that cage so I can display a little more of that skill people saw out there. I just want to get out there and fight again. This is an art, and that is what I do it for. It's not for the money, the victory or the notoriety. I just want to get out there on the biggest stage possible and know I'm fighting the best people in the world."
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.
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