Written by Josh B.
Four carefully matched stylistic encounters round out the ESPN + UFC 250 Nunes vs. Spencer undercard.
For UFC 250 Nunes vs. Spencer discussion and in-depth odds preview, click here.
The feature bout pits entertaining characters Alex 'Bruce Leeroy' Caceres (15-12) and rising 20-year-old grappling savant Chase Hooper (9-0-1) in a veteran vs. rookie classic.
Alex Caceres (+140)
Charismatic since his octagon infancy on TUF 12, Caceres owns ten years of UFC experience, including 21 fights for the promotion. Never a legit contender, the 31-year-old has, however, earned enough respect to play gatekeeper for hopefuls chasing top level MMA entrance.
Ten wins and 11 losses through his major league tenure have also kept Caceres in Dana White's rolodex. With his best days coming during a five fight unbeaten run from 2012 through late 2014, a peak ended by Urijah Faber, the MMA Lab disciple has one glaring weakness.
Caceres has taken seven pro submissions. Ground specialists have found little trouble wrapping the wispy featherweight in fight-ending holds: especially the rear-naked choke.
Saturday's opponent poses an immediate threat to light hitting Caceres.
Chase Hooper (-160)
Certainly overshadowed by his next assignment's experience, precocious Hooper nonetheless has an innate ability to hit smooth mounts and drop nasty elbows or sink in various submissions. 'The Dream' has finished six of his ten paid fights within distance. Standing 6'1 with lanky arms and legs, pressure epitomizes Hooper as no opponent has cracked his style.
Unorthodox and entertaining, wins continue building for the Combat Sports & Fitness protege. It seems inevitable Hooper, 20, will follow his tremendous octagon debut by placing another stoppage on the Caceres ledger.
Stouter fighters have somehow found themselves physically overwhelmed by lithe Hooper. Look for Chase 'The Dream' to blitz Caceres, bring the fight down and submit the octagon staple. This is an excellent matchup which leads perfectly into the main card.
Chase Hooper wins via submission
Undercard bout two sees Gerald '3M' Meerschaert (31-12) challenge #13 Ian Heinisch 13-3 in middleweight action.
Gerald Meerschaert (+105)
One of MMA's finest active BJJ artists, the athleticism Meerschaert lacks is almost forgiven by 23 pro subs and six TKOs through 45 bouts. Primarily trading wins and losses since entering octagon waters, the Milwaukee native recently cranked a rear-naked choke vs. Derek Winn to gain clutch victory and stand 2-3 since 2018. A 1-4 stretch could've placed Duke Rufus' lengthy grappler back among lesser promotions.
Possibly great in one area, Meerschaert has taken frequent losses when he cannot secure game-ending holds. The reason for this is'3M' plods on his feet and is easily outpointed and overpowered by more explosive, ground savvy challengers.
Ian Heinisch (-125)
Though shorter and giving up reach vs. Saturday's opponent, Heinisch remains on the 185 lb. contender periphery due to explosive attributes. Submitted just once during his pro career, the former high school wrestling All American has lost consecutive bouts against impressive names.
While another setback will erase the rating Heinisch earned by capturing regional belts and a 2-0 UFC debut, the well-rounded athlete is built to outpoint his upcoming counterpart.
With neither man blazing their division, Heinisch can use defensive wrestling to keep the fight standing. From that angle, "The Hurricane" will land harder strikes while circling at range to impress the cageside judges.
Ian Heinisch wins by decision
Bantamweights Brian Kelleher (21-10) and #12 Cody Stamman (18-2-1) meet in a fairly even statistical matchup. Each veteran stands 5'6, is strong at 135 and well rounded. The one physical edge leaning toward Kelleher is a 1.5 inch reach advantage. Stamman appears quicker. The two will find decide which fighter is superior this weekend.
Brian Kelleher (+240)
A regional mainstay, Kelleher, 33, kept grinding until breakthrough success arrived with Ring of Combat 135 lb. title honors. From there, the tested finisher got his long-awaited call from Dana White. In a lopsided octagon entry, Kelleher quickly blasted trial horse Luri Alacantara.
That win sparked 3-1 UFC genesis for Kelleher including victories over Damian Stasiak and Renan Barao. However, stoppage losses to Marlon Vera, John Lineker and Montel Jackson put the MMA devotee's octagon future in jeopardy.
To his credit, Kelleher has recently bounced back with convincing wins over Hunter Azure and Ode Osbourne to earn another step-up chance.
Cody Stamman (-280)
That reward comes via Cody Stamman. A decorated grappler and amateur boxer, Stamman is 11-1-1 since 2014. More so, the blight of poor recent judging has many announcing the 30-year-old a clear winner vs. top-ten rated Yadong Song. Upset from that robbery, Stamman is focused to continue wading through loaded bantamweight fields vs. unheralded Kelleher.
With eight finishes in 18 wins, Wayne, Michigan's pride could bank another scorecard verdict vs. wily Kelleher. Generally durable, Stamman has been tapped just once, but that sequence came in loud fashion against rolling Aljamain Sterling.
As mentioned, Kelleher holds 17 early pro enders -- nine subs and eight TKOs -- so it isn't inconceivable he could put Stamman away early. Though, again, the #12 bantamweight is a tough out.
With the facts formed, expect Stamman to use hand speed and wrestling chops to outclass Kelleher through an entertaining 15 minutes.
Cody Stamman wins by split decision.
Opening ESPN + undercard action pits hard hitters Charles Byrd (10-6)vs. Maki 'coconut bombs' Pitolo (11-5).
Charles Byrd (-165)
After testing deep 185 territory, Byrd carries two consecutive losses into this weekend against far lesser opposition. While the 36-year-old must remain aware of Pitolo connecting, naturally larger, speedier Byrd holds every edge come Saturday.
Noted for explosive hands and elevating takedowns, the Fortis MMA member ended both DWCS appearances early before a winning UFC debut vs. John Phillips. Five submissions and three TKOs highlight Byrd's record.
Again, while falling short opposite standouts Darren Stewart and Edmen Shahbazyan, 'Kid Dynamite' gets his showcase versus Pitolo.
Maki Pitolo (+145)
An entertaining name on the regional scene, Pitolo lost his grinding UFC debut against journeyman Callan Potter after a memorable DWCS TKO. When objectively reviewing the Pitolo resume, notable victories are awash. Technically, the Hawaiian throws volume, but finds himself prone for takedowns due to poor balance.
Byrd has the strength to continuously put Pitolo on the mat and keep him there while dropping hammer fists. Opposite mainly lower level competition, Maki Pitolo has earned nine finished in 12 wins -while being stopped four times as well.
Charles Byrd is by far the toughest task of Pitolo's seven-year pro career.
While Pitolo has a puncher's chance against a fighter recent TKOd in consecutive fights, expect Byrd to be too much man for 'Coconut Bombs.'
While Pitolo loads, Byrd will lift him for takedowns. When the fighters stand, the more well-rounded octagon vet will land harder, quicker shots. Physically dominant, Charles Byrd picks up a unanimous decision win in this fan-friendly encounter.
Charles Byrd wins by unanimous decision.
Check back soon for UFC 250 Nunes vs. Spencer Fight Pass early prelim predictions.