The current top five in bantamweight FPR, after T.J. Dillashaw’s victory over Renan Barao:
- T.J. Dillashaw +7.22
- Renan Barao +4.34
- Urijah Faber +3.68
- Dominick Cruz +3.47
- Erik Perez +3.39
Wait… Erik Perez? Really?
For the most part, as an observer I’ve been lukewarm on Perez as a UFC bantamweight prospect. He entered the UFC with a mediocre 10-4 record although three of those losses were by split decision. He’s 4-1 in the UFC but his wins have been against fringe UFC competition in Edwin Figueroa, Byron Bloodworth, Ken Stone, and John Albert. None of those fighters are still in the UFC. When Perez stepped up in competition to take on Takeya Mizugaki, he appeared to be exposed as Mizugaki seemed to get the better of the striking exchanges.
Still, a look at the numbers shows why Perez rates so well in FPR. He’s up 154-73 in significant strikes, 3-0 in knockdowns, 12-2 in takedowns, and 3-0 in fight finishes. Any fighter who can control the takedown game and strike effectively and strike with power is a pretty darn good prospect. And while Perez’s level of competition hasn’t been very high, there’s not much more I can ask of a fighter than to dominate that competition, and that’s exactly what Perez has done.
It’s tricky to break down this fight against Bryan Caraway because Perez has simply never faced anybody like Caraway before. Caraway is a fighter with a singular focus on landing takedowns, taking his opponent’s back, and submitting him by rear naked choke. Caraway is very good at this, and that’s a good thing because his striking is very rough around the edges. Caraway’s standing strikes total in UFC/WEC fights: 147 landed, 194 absorbed.
Perez will have a clear advantage standing, which means Caraway needs to implement his usual wrestling/grappling style if he wants to win. Whether or not he’ll be able to is an open question. Caraway’s takedown game has been very solid as he’s landed 3.4 takedowns per 15 minutes at 44 percent accuracy. Perez has been taken down twice in eight attempts against a series of non-wrestlers – not nearly enough data to come to any conclusions about how well he can defend takedowns.
I can only speculate, but at some point, I have to trust my statistical analysis, and its indication is that Perez is a better fighter than Caraway. At the very least, Perez has more options: he’s shown that he can stand and strike, and he’s shown he can go for takedowns. Caraway can only go for takedowns, although he’s been very effective despite his limited offense. Even so, I see Perez as the more talented overall athlete. That’s enough for me to pick him in a fight where I have more questions than answers.
Pick: Erik Perez by decision