UFC Fight Night: Henderson vs. Khabilov - Erik Perez vs. Bryan Caraway Preview and Prognostication

Photo by Esther Lin of MMA Fighting

Bantamweights Erik Perez and Bryan Caraway in a dual that should have people talking more about Miesha Tate than the opening fight of the main card.

Erik Perez vs. Bryan Caraway Bantamweight

Can we talk about Miesha Tate instead?

The amount of 'Tate is an awful coach' jokes have long since run their half life.

It's not that. It's just that she's more interesting than this fight.

Possibly. Although this is a solid little high octane bout between two quietly underrated bantamweights.

Caraway? Underrated? Have you been hanging out with Maureen Dowd on a shared diet of Karma Kandy?

If only. But alas, I am not one of the small percentages (less than one) of people going to the hospital for spiking my chocolate with cannabis in Colorado.

So oddsmakers have this one dead even. Sound about right?

Yep.

I had to do a double take looking at Erik Perez' record. I never would have believed he was 24. Perez is a solid scrapper who has only lost once since 2010 and that was to Takeya Mizugaki in a very close and competitive bout. He's 3-1 in the UFC against decent enough competition.

Caraway, believe it or not, is also 3-1 in the UFC. Wins over Johnny Bedford and Mitch Gagnon make up a solid resume for the fighter who has become the butt of many jokes...not to mention, unbridled jealousy...

I don't know that I could be jealous of stuff like this and this.

Fair enough.

Getting back to the fight, Perez and Caraway are fighters who really need a gameplan to hide their flaws. They make the most of the tools are their disposal when they're keeping the plan linear. The more off script the bout gets, the worse off they are.

Perez is an interesting guy who would be a big deal if the UFC could finally manage a show in Mexico. He has a crowd pleasing style that Dana could use to sell to Mexican crowds: "He's the f***ing Marco Antonio Barrera of MMA. He's a f***ing lion trapped in a modest Mexican body."

He fights with his shoulders kind of hunched over, chambering strikes with his right and left from his traditional stance. As awful as it is to compare someone like Perez to Erik Morales (my favorite boxer of all time), he does share the principles of channeling technique through raw aggression.

When I went back to his bout with Mizugaki, I had forgotten how competitive the fight actually was. It wasn't close on the scorecards (officials notwithstanding), but it was a tough fight for Mizugaki who got caught on numerous occasions during the exchanges. Perez seemed to find a home for his left hook at times, and wasn't intimidated by Mizu's intense pressure.

As for Caraway, of his 18 wins, 16 are by submission. He's one of the few fighters still finding success in the submission department despite submissions wins declining kind of rapidly.

What makes Caraway so effective is that he keeps his game simple stupid. Knowing he's capable of submitting opponents, he commits to the takedown, and only abandons his takedowns to set them up more efficiently with strikes.

Despite how you feel about his general intelligence, I think his fight IQ is pretty high. His corner isn't a bastion of insight, but I'd argue that his corner is really not all that different from most others: fighters don't always need specific advice. Specific advice requires planning, and calculation. Presumably, all that calculation was done before the fight. During the fight, it's instinct and autopilot. The reknowned social scientist, Jonathan Haidt, is fond of using the analogy of the rider and the elephant in relation to intuition versus rationalization (the elephant being the metaphor for intuition). Fight time is precisely where the elephant must take over. Of course, it's always nice to be the exception. Like Frankie Edgar's relationship with boxing trainer Mark Henry. Those guys are awesome.

While Perez has the advantage on the feet, I suspect Caraway will get his takedowns.

He does a good job of masking them with feints, using a tricky left hook to follow up a takedown attempt and feinting his left hook when he wants a takedown. Perez doesn't have elite defensive wrestling. He's been put on his back before, including Mizugaki, who was able to work hooks in at times during their scrambles. If Takeya could accomplish as much, I don't see what's stopping Caraway, who for all of his faults, knows how to grapple.

Perez could very easily win this one if he can keep it standing, but I don't see him holding off Caraway's stifling top control.

Bryan Caraway by RNC, round 2.

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