On UFC on ESPN: Ngannou vs. Velasquez in the Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix Arizona, halfway down the main card sits one Kron Gracie (4-0), who makes his UFC debut against Alex Caceres (14-11 1NC). The bout, originally scheduled for the cancelled UFC 233 event, was announced in December of 2018 shortly after the signing of the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu practitioner.
Weight Class: Featherweight
Pro MMA Record: 4-0 (4 submissions, 2 rear naked chokes, armbar, guillotine)
Kron is the youngest son of the legendary Rickson Gracie, a pioneer in both Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu and MMA, and was awarded his black belt from his father at just 19 years of age. He comes into the biggest organisation in the world riding the last name that was once a golden ticket into MMA, becoming the first Gracie since Roger at UFC 162 to enter the Octagon. Whilst his fellow Gracie Family member Neiman fights in Bellator’s Welterweight division.
Kron last fight was a rear-naked choke win over the veteran Tatsuya Kawajiri, a former UFC fighter himself, who only months before submitting to Kron, went to a decision with Cub Swanson in the UFC.
There’s always been an appeal to fighters who excel and display mastery of one particular aspect of MMA. Ever since UFC 1 where Kron’s Uncle Royce Gracie came in and took the MMA world by storm with his high-level Jiu-Jitsu, an array of Jiu-Jitsu practitioners have transitioned to MMA in a search for success. There’s a consistent curiosity to see how far a fighter can get with their high-level proficiency in one area, it’s exactly the same as when Conor McGregor stepped into the squared circle to take on Floyd Mayweather, where fans were interested to see if the Irishman’s elite level MMA striking could go punch for punch with Mayweather’s equally elite boxing skills. It’s something we’ll examine when Olympic level folkstyle wrestler Ben Askren makes his UFC debut against a solid anti-wrestler in Robbie Lawler. But the UFC is no longer ‘style vs ‘style, and in order to reach the heights that all who enter the Octagon desire, you need a proficiency in all areas, whilst a high-level Jiu-Jitsu fighter could finish the fight on the ground, against a high-level wrestler who can neutralise take-downs and dictate where the fight takes place, an elite submission game is far less valuable.
Kron trains regularly with the Diaz brothers, he was in Nate’s corner for his big win over Conor McGregor at UFC 196, and Nate will be in his corner this weekend. He’s also helped out Gilbert Melendez with training camps, these experiences are no doubt an ‘iron sharpens iron’ situation.
Like the Diaz Bros, Kron kinda lacks a takedown game and tends to favour pulling guard, a technique which is far less successful in the UFC, although when he gets to that closed guard position he certainly makes magic. This is where we’ll see how Kron’s striking holds up, so far he has shown some success with clinch-work and a bit of dirty boxing, using that clinch to tie up his opponent and drag the fight to the ground. But as a whole, his striking and footwork are quite green, but for only 4 fights into his career, he’s looking a pretty solid prospect.
This fight is very much about Gracie’s inclusion to the UFC, but he can’t underestimate nor look past Caceres. His record and performances might be erratic but he has a striking style that is hard to prepare for and could prove a challenge for Kron if the Gracie fails to get the fight to the ground, Caceres should look to move in and out from Kron, actively disengaging and fighting from a distance. Forcing Kron to chase him so Caceres can look to capitalise.
Alex ‘Bruce Leeroy’ Caceres is effectively a veteran in the UFC with eight years of Octagon experience to his name now, but despite this Caceres’ performances just scream ‘inconsistent, going 9-9 in his last 18 bouts. Although his fights are always entertaining, which explains why he’s so far with 4 of those losses being due to a rear-naked choke, something Kron and Rickson will no doubt have picked up on considering how nasty Kron’s chokes are, he damn near finished Marcelo Garcia with a guillotine in 2011’s ADCC.
In conclusion, it feels good to have a Gracie back in the UFC and there could be plenty of fun matchups for him down the line. Particularly one with fellow featherweight and Jiu-Jitsu standout Ryan Hall, who’s coming off a slick Heel Hook finish of BJ Penn.
Below is a grappling match between Kron and ONE Championship and Danaher Death Squad member Garry Tonon, where the pair put on a spectacular bout before Kron sunk in a tight rear-naked choke.