The Severe Spotlight: Alex Perez

Fly never die. The lower weight classes have been blazing a trail in the UFC for the last 5 years. Consistently driving the technical elements of the sport forward given the dexterity of the roster’s skillsets. In each of those divisions, the number next to the rankings is often purely cosmetic. On any given day, any of the fighters in the top 15 could take a win over any of the other members of that group.

Alex Perez is a testament to just this. A horrific schedule of fight cancellations has led to him having performed only 5 times in the last 4 years. His three losses being to then champion Deiveson Figueredo, now champion Alexandre Pantoja, and very possible future champion Muhammad Mokaev. A leg kick finish over Jussier Formiga and Saturday nights finish over Matheus Nicolau.

Perez opens the first round with plenty of fakes, and forward pressure. The consistent jousting of the left jab, and a right back teep. A tight right hand, and shoulders tucked tightly behind the ears, Perez stomps forward searching for his shots.

Perez’s gameplan begins to unfold in front of our eyes as the round progresses to the second minute. Perez refuses to allow Nicolau to spend too many moments inside the centre of the cage, inside the tramlines. The inside leg kick drives Nicolau back, the jousting jabs, the strong right hand and the lateral footwork ensures that Nicolau stays behind the tramline.

As we creep into the third minute, two switch striking combinations cause Nicolau to press backwards rapidly. A lovely mixture of body shots, straight shots through the guard of Nicolau and a clean left hook. Nicolau failed to circle and instead drove right backwards – Perez will have noted this.

Nicolau attempts to adjust, tracking his footwork to place himself inside the line of the tramlines, but also placing himself into more danger with Perez’s shots and bursts into the pocket. Perez gets caught with a clean 1-2 and reacts with another fantastic rushing combination. The combinations are effective for multiple reasons, the primary reason is his switching of stances. A defensive opponent must read the potential strikes coming, often this is programmed on a stance basis. So, when a fighter switches through stances and ranges rapidly, trying to evade the shots coming is difficult, to counter is even more difficult. Mix in the speed of a 125lb fighter, and a defensive fighter has a problem. Equally, the shots Perez is choosing, move between the ranges on an opponent’s body, he rips to the body, his head coming off the centre line allows him to find clean uppercuts, the straights to the head all cumulate into very difficult questions for Nicolau to answer.

The final minute see’s activity from both fighters.

The second round starts at a higher clip than the first. Both fighters looking to land their own jabs and a flurry of low kicks. Perez finds value yet again in the bursting forward movements. Nicolau is more willing to stand in the pocket to not be pushed back as he was in the first. In theory this is a strong choice – however Nicolau is much more of a stick and move fighter. Perez is the quicker and has the confidence that he can burst through the pocket.

As we see the second-round progress, Perez is being able to find himself in the counter exchanges in the pocket. Nicolau is still pushing the pace, and looking to find his shots, but Perez’s footwork is cleaner and allows him to find the bigger shots in the exchange.

The setup to the initial wobble starts with a basic sidestep to a clean shot. Nicolau resets and Perez comes again, side steps the other way, shuffling through to a crisp shovel hook to the body with his left, before rotating through his core and landing a right hook up top that sends Nicolau wobbling.

Perez follows, calmly cutting off the cage as he looks for his finish, which comes with the fourth consecutive right hand that he throws. He starts by dropping a shot to the gut, then two pawing right hooks to the hands of Nicolau the second of those dragging the hand down, before a crushing right hook send Nicolau crashing to the canvas.

Fight stopped, cue celebration. Huge win for Alex Perez.

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