Now entering his second decade on the UFC roster, Alex Caceres arrives in Las Vegas on one of the best runs of his career.

A contestant on Season 12 of The Ultimate Fighter when he was still in the very early stages of his professional career, the now 32-year-old has grown up inside the Octagon, with Saturday’s bout with Kevin Croom marking the 24th time Caceres has made the walk under the UFC banner. After struggling with inconsistency for vast stretches of the last 10 years, he heads into this weekend’s contest on a three-fight winning streak and having won four of his last five overall.

It’s never been an issue of talent or raw tools with Caceres, who has a tremendous frame and reach for the featherweight division and has always exhibited the kind of natural gifts and fluidity that many aspiring fighters would love to possess. The piece that often appeared to be missing as the mercurial perennial prospect navigated the peaks and valleys of his professional career was focus, as the exceedingly laid-back Miami native occasionally seemed too laissez-faire for someone about to get into a fistfight.

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But during the course of his current winning streak, Caceres has shown improved focus and a greater sense of urgency right out of the chute, locking in as soon as the bout begins, and the results have been telling.

After scoring a unanimous decision win over scrappy Fortis MMA representative Steve Peterson in the summer of 2019, the long-time MMA Lab representative dominated upstart Chase Hooper. A couple months later, Caceres turned in one of the best performances of his career, making quick work of late replacement Austin Springer, finishing the former Contender Series competitor in under four minutes at the end of August.

Saturday night, Caceres shares the Octagon with Croom, an experienced regional veteran who made a splash in his short notice debut last September, choking out Roosevelt Roberts, only to have the rapid submission win be overturned following the bout after testing positive for marijuana.

This is the kind of fight that should make it clear whether Caceres is finally starting to put it all together and truly taking things to the next level, as Croom is a high-risk opponent who is going to bring the fight to the tenured UFC featherweight from the outset.

While a victory this weekend won’t necessarily catapult Caceres into the Top 15 in the talent-rich 145-pound weight class, it would push his winning streak to four and signal that more than a decade after strutting and dancing his way into our lives via The Ultimate Fighter, “Bruce Leeroy” just might be ready to take a major step forward in his career

Alexander Hernandez