Julian Erosa (28-9 MMA, 6-5 UFC) got the fight he’s been asking for in Alex Caceres (19-13 MMA, 14-11, 1 NC UFC). The two featherweights are set to meet on Dec. 17 at a UFC APEX event in Las Vegas.
Erosa called out Caceres after “Juicy J” defeated common opponent Steven Peterson in February.
“I’ve been asking for this fight for a long time,” Erosa told MMASucka. “Not for any specific reason other than that he’s an exciting guy to watch, and I feel like I have an exciting style as well. I think that me and him together can put together a fight that can possibly be Fight of the Night or a performance bonus on either end. For me, that was the main reason why I’ve wanted this fight. He’s just a fun guy to stylistically match-up against. I think I match up really well.”
Erosa said he and Caceres are both unorthodox in the stand-up and will try to get a feel for each other’s ranges. Erosa has a two-inch height advantage and a one-inch reach advantage. Erosa feels he can use his weight, grappling and wrestling to wear Caceres down and let his self-proclaimed best asset, his cardio, take over.
“I feel like [Caceres has] got really good cardio, but I’ve also watched a couple of fights where he seems to fade a little bit with constant pressure,” Erosa said. “I think that’s going to be my best path to victory; just constantly pressuring him and wearing him out. That’s how I see the fight going. Toward the later part of the fight, just wearing out on him, wearing out on him and eventually breaking him, and possibly getting a submission or TKO later in the fight.”
Erosa feels he’s a “second-half” type of fighter and predicts he will finish Caceres in the third round.
Erosa said Caceres “definitely” lets his opponents dictate the fights and is a more reactionary type of fighter.
“That’s when I plan on pressuring him and kind of taking the fight where I want it,” Erosa said. “I’ve always been a pressure fighter, but I think the key to victory against a guy like Caceres is to be a bit more intelligent about pressuring him. He’s a decent fighter moving back, because he’s kind of used to that. He’s a guy who’s very elusive, and he’s kind of in and out. He moves laterally very well. If I do pressure him, I’ve got to keep the range and I’ve also got to be protective as well.”
Erosa believes he can replicate many of the things he did when he fought Julio Arce, except he will be more defensively minded. Arce caught Erosa with a third-round head kick in their May 2019 bout, which led to a one-fight departure from the UFC for Erosa.
Erosa plans to tighten up the defense when he is pressuring Caceres against the cage.
“Against Caceres, it’s going to be a similar fight as the Julio Arce one was, but I’ve gotta learn from that mistake and make sure that I’m being a bit more defensive while I’m keeping the pressure instead of being all over the place,” Erosa said. “I plan on pressuring him, and I think he’s going to let me dictate where that fight takes place and be more reactionary. That’s my game plan against him.”
Erosa said one of his biggest mistakes early in his UFC career was that he was “too OK” with getting crazy in fights. “Juicy J” said he was always more measured in his regional fights.
“Once I got in the UFC, I feel like a lot of people have a need or a want to impress the matchmakers, the fans, and the UFC staff,” he said. “You become a bit more reckless. I think that kind of hindered me early on in my UFC career. Even in The Ultimate Fighter, I did really well because I was fighting like how I normally fought. Artem [Lobov] knocked me out, but that was one out of the four fights. I was 3-1. Once I transitioned into the UFC, I felt like I had to impress people. I was willing to become a little more reckless to do that. I think that hindered me and caused me to lose fights in ways I could’ve avoided.”
Now in his third stint in the Octagon, Erosa has done better at piecing things together and being more measured. He entered his last bout against Hakeem Dawodu on a two-fight win streak, having won four of his last five in the UFC.
“I knew the UFC liked me,” Erosa said. “There was a lot of pressure already off of me at that point. I was able to go in there and not necessarily try to have to impress people.”
It led to what was arguably the best, most complete performance of Erosa’s career against a tough opponent.
“I think the first round was a fun one, and the first round was very action-packed, and I did really well,” Erosa said. “The last two rounds, I was able to take him down and take his back. It was a bit of a slow fight from there on out, but I have no shame about that. That was probably one of my best performances because I was willing to fight somebody without being reckless. It’s something I want to do with Caceres as well. I really want to be measured in my approach and win dominantly, but take less risks than I have before.”
Erosa, before the Dawodu fight, said he believed a win over Dawodu would “propel” his name.
The win has got him the fight he wanted with Caceres, currently ranked the No. 15 featherweight in the UFC. A win over “Bruce Leeroy” could earn Erosa a number next to his name before the holidays.
Erosa is focused on Caceres and said he could care less if he is ranked or unranked.
“I’m always looking for a guy who’s going to put on a good fight with me. I think Caceres is a game opponent in that sense. That’s really more what I’m worried about. But these things happen. You start winning multiple fights in a row, and people are going to start talking about you fighting more and more ranked opponents higher up. The Dawodu fight was a fight where a lot of people started talking about me being more of a serious contender toward the top-15 guys. A win over Caceres would be a fourth consecutive win. He’s another guy who’s right above me. It would be nice to have a number next to my name, but honestly, what’s more important to me is getting the wins over these guys, and honestly having fun fights but being intelligent about them as well.”
The UFC event on Dec. 17 is set to air on ESPN+.
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