UFC On Fuel TV 4: Facebook Preliminary Card Dissection

Caceres x Page

Mid-week MMA comes in the form of UFC on Fuel TV 4 this Wednesday (July 11) from the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California. The headliner pits a pair of top-ten middleweights in the Mark Munoz vs. Chris Weidman bout and 5 matches will stream live and free on the UFC's Facebook page before the 6-fight Fuel TV main card begins at 8:00 p.m. ET.

UFC on Fuel TV 4 (Facebook Prelims)

Alex Caceres vs. Damacio Page
Andrew Craig vs. Rafael Natal
Chris Cariaso vs. Josh Ferguson
Marcelo Guimaraes vs. Dan Stittgen
Raphael Assuncao vs. Issei Tamura

Alex Caceres (6-5) vs. Damacio Page (15-7)

Caceres' record (6-5 overall, 1-3 in the Octagon) doesn't reflect the way he's matured and improved since appearing on TUF 12 as a lightweight. The young 24-year-old choked out his first 2 opponents on the show and then took on the explosive Michael Johnson in a grudge match, dropping a decision but showing admirable gameness in defeat. His official UFC career opened up with a rear-naked choke loss to Mackens Semerzier; Caceres then dropped to featherweight and again showed advancements in a feisty submission defeat to Jim Hettes before plummeting all the way down to bantamweight to score his first Octagon win over the venerable Cole Escovedo by decision.

Unusual circumstances and controversy surrounded the most recent outing for Caceres: incongruent with the way that fighters are typically penalized for accidental low blows, he was docked a full 2 points in the 2nd round for his 2nd unintentional shot to the groin of Edwin Figueroa. Even with that excessive and atypical handicap, most media sources scored the match for Caceres (including myself) and the best case scenario for Figueroa seemed to be a draw, but Figueroa was awarded a split decision and had his moments in each round.

Continued in the full entry.

SBN coverage of UFC on FUEL TV 4: Munoz vs. Weidman

Jackson/Winklejohn product Damacio Page (15-7) goes by the charmingly subtle nickname "The Angel of Death." Page is one of the scrappiest bantamweights around but has been plagued by ongoing injuries. After accepting a bout 2 weight classes higher than usual (lightweight) and losing by submission to the legendary Genki Sudo in K-1 circa 2006, Page put together 5-straight wins, the last of which was a career-defining decision over Scott Jorgensen in Page's WEC debut. He's struggled since, winning just 2 of his last 6 and competing just once per year since 2010, and Page is currently on a 3-fight skid (Demetrious Johnson, Brian Bowles, Brad Pickett).

Size will be a governing factor here, as Caceres is a long and spidery bantamweight (5'9" tall, 73" reach) but still admirably athletic and agile for the weight class. Page, a short and compact (5'6", 66" reach) slugger with a stout clinch game, will be challenged by Caceres' size, dexterity and unpredictable kickboxing repertoire.

"Bruce Leroy" cut his teeth as a backyard brawler in Miami, showing excellent instincts and a nice blend of striking and grappling for such an unpolished fighter. Now, those raw skills have been honed into a more complete machine -- Caceres attacks with a wide range of karate-flavored kicks and his grappling fundamentals have become much more technical.

Page is only 29-years-old but has more than 7 years of pro experience and his injuries seem to have sapped his mobility and quickness. However, his hands are still sharp and powerful, he's always had a burly clinch game with an under-rated Judo acumen and he's a gamer to the core. Not a finesse fighter by any means, Page can be a little predictable: his gameplan usually consists of winging heavy overhands with bad intentions and holding his ground in the clinch, where he looks to keep his balance and break free or launch his opponent with deep hip throws.

I've been extremely high on Caceres from the standpoint of potential and I think he could grow into a terror at bantamweight. He has the reach of a welterweight, he's quick and nimble, his creativity is off the charts and now his fighting fundamentals are catching up with his raw instincts. Page will have the edge in pure power, both with his hands and when tied up in the clinch, but I feel that Caceres can capitalize on his size and foreseeable strategy. Page is the type of gunslinger who can change -- or end -- the fight with a single punch, but I see Caceres being too athletic and dynamic for him.

My Prediction: Alex Caceres by submission.

Andrew Craig (7-0) vs. Rafael Natal (14-3-1)

Andrew Craig played spoiler in his debut against Australian Kyle Noke in front of the Aussie's hometown crowd. In just his 7th pro fight, Craig dismantled Noke, a veteran of 25 fights, and won a convincing decision. Craig trains under Travis Tooke at Team Tooke in Houston and wields a nice balance of wrestling, submission grappling and Muay Thai. All but the latter were applied defensively against Noke early, who pressured the newcomer with takedowns, short strikes and submission attempts, all of which Craig nullified with extraordinary composure before turning the tide with crisp stand up.

Rafael "Sapo" Natal is a BJJ specialist (black belt) who authenticated his status with a 1st-round KO of Travis Lutter before signing with the UFC. He's finally on track with 2-straight wins (Paul Bradley, Michael Kuiper) by decision after starting out with a loss (Rich Attonito) and a draw (Jesse Bongfeldt). Natal's striking is wide and loose but he's toned things down a little in order to improve his accuracy and maintain his balance when throwing.

Natal is eerily similar to Noke except he's more adept with submissions than striking and, with that minor exception, I really don't see anything that Natal can throw at Craig that Noke didn't. Craig is not only a cleaner striker but has a much better grasp of distance, timing and head movement. I expect him to make a stand early while repelling Natal's advances before he starts to methodically pick him apart from the fringe while side-stepping and shucking off his takedown attempts.

My Prediction: Andrew Craig by decision.

Chris "Kamikaze" Cariaso (13-3) vs. Josh "Taz" Ferguson (8-4)

Cariaso is rolling after a breakout performance (split-decision loss to Michael McDonald) and a rousing upset (unanimous decision victory over Takeya Mizugaki). He's won 7 of his last 9 with McDonald and Renan Barao accounting for his only flaws, though he was put to the test against sub whiz Vaughan Lee (split-decision win) betwixt the McDonald and Mizugaki fights.

Ferguson was a member of TUF 14 who lost a unanimous decision to Johnny Bedford on the show and tapped to a Roland Delorme choke at the live finale in the 3rd round of a back-and-forth battle. Ferguson is a feisty bantamweight with solid boxing and BJJ and good overall toughness.

Unfortunately, taking on a surging talent like Cariaso, who fought tooth and nail in a competitive loss to McDonald and just picked off a perennial top-10er in Mizugaki, should be an extremely tall order for Ferguson, who's dropped 3 of his last 4. This is odd matchmaking for both fighters, as Ferguson is a stubborn brawler with potential but isn't getting any easy opponents. I expect Cariaso, though he's a bit shorter, to be a little quicker to the punch, stronger in the clinch and slicker on the mat.

My Prediction: Chris Cariaso by submission.

Raphael Assuncao (17-4) vs. Issei Tamura (7-2)

Assuncao is a BJJ black belt with 8 years of sturdy competition under his belt, much of which was contested in higher weight classes. Assuncao holds stellar wins over monster lightweights in Joe Lauzon (submission) and Jorge Masvidal (decision) early in his career and powered his way to a 14-1 clip after defeating Yves Jabouin WEC 43. After that, Assuncao lost 3 of his next 4 but was successful in his bantamweight debut with a win over Johnny Eduardo.

Tamura trains with the Krazy Bee team and came up in Shooto, where he won the 2008 Rookie Tournament. He's a decision-heavy grappler (5 decisions, 2 TKOs) but, interestingly enough, was able to manipulate strong finishes against his best opposition. He unloaded a flurry on the savvy and experienced Katsuya Toida in his first steep test and, in his Octagon debut, Tamura put a beating on Tiequan Zhang and stopped him in the 2nd with strikes.

Barring experience, which goes to Assuncao by a significant margin, Assuncao and Tamura are very similar: they have capable wrestling, basic but powerful striking and intelligent submission grappling. Assuncao has the better grappling accolades but Tamura's proven to have a spirit and durability that defies his inexperience. My instincts are actually leaning me toward Tamura but Assuncao's history against strong competition makes him the more logical choice. This should be razor thin and I could see it unfolding in either direction.

My Prediction: Raphael Assuncao by decision.

Marcelo Guimaraes (7-0) vs. Dan Stittgen (7-2)

Guimaraes is making his Octagon debut as the Jungle Fight middleweight champ and another entry of the Bloody Elbow World MMA Scouting Report, securing the #2 spot on 2012's Middleweight list. Here's Rory MacLeod (smoogy) on Guimaraes:

If there is a simple anthro-stylistic explanation for the success of Brazilian mixed martial arts fighters, it's that the intersection of Muay Thai, boxing and Jiu-Jitsu training produces athletes who naturally excel at finishing fights. As much as in any other region, combatants are pressed by the crowd to constantly look for a knockout or submission early and often. So for wrestlers like Caveira Team's Marcelo Guimaraes (7-0-1), rounds spent on top delivering methodical ground and pound beatings usually don't ingratiate themselves to the audience. But despite the resistance, "Magrao" has taken advantage of his atypical skills to rise to the forefront of Brazil's national fight circuit.

Perhaps "wrestler" isn't the best description of Guimaraes. Trained in Luta Livre, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai, he is certainly more well-rounded than average. Despite his archaic Gracie-esque stance, Marcelo possesses a solid jab and roundhouse kick, but his preference is clearly for ground fighting.

With equal parts technique and athleticism, Guimaraes uses his basic striking skills to set up fast, driving shots that few of his peers in Brazil can neutralize. On the floor, he'll posture for ground and pound while looking for openings to pass or set up submissions while his opponents squirm to avoid punishment. It sounds simplistic, but Marcelo's potent combination of strength, tight control and relentless aggression can quickly demoralize his opposition.

Stittgen is making his sophomore effort in the UFC after being victimized by a Stephen Thompson head kick in their mutual debuts. The only other name of note on Stittgen's record is the UFC's Justin Edwards, who defeated Stittgen by guillotine in 2010. 5 of Stittgen's 7 wins are via submission with a single TKO and decision win apiece.

Stittgen might have the cleaner stand up and more power, but Guimaraes should eventually close range, work his overbearing takedowns and wreak havoc on the mat.

My Prediction: Marcelo Guimaraes by decision.

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