LAS VEGAS -- This is the kind of fight a veteran such as Urijah Faber could not afford to lose.
A win was expected, a loss for Faber, 35, to Alex Caceres, 26, would have been a huge setback.
Caceres very well might become one of the very best bantamweights in UFC in the future.
But Saturday night, Sacramento’s Faber wasn’t about to allow Caceres to make that ascension at his expense.
Faber took out the younger, taller Caceres with a rear-naked choke 1:09 into the third round for a victory in a preliminary bout on the undercard of UFC 175 at Mandalay Bay Events Center.
Faber (31-7) has won five of his last six fights. Four of those wins have been by submission.
It was Faber’s first bout since a technical knockout loss to Renan Barao on Feb. 1. Faber is still not happy about that fight’s controversial quick stoppage in the first round.
With the win, Faber remains undefeated in non-title fights.
Faber, the No. 2-ranked bantamweight, came into the fight looking to push the pace and pressure Caceres. Faber was giving up 4 inches in height to the 5-foot-10 Caceres and was at a 61/2-inch reach disadvantage.
But Faber was too strong and too experienced to allow Caceres (10-6), who entered the fight ranked 12th in the world, to use his length to his advantage.
Faber was eventually able to put away Caceres in the third.
Faber kept Caceres on the mat and finally caught him in the third when Caceres went for a kick and Faber caught his leg.
Faber followed up with strikes to Caceres’ face to get him to the mat. And when Caceres exposed his back attempting to escape Faber’s grasp, Faber quickly capitalized to cinch in the choke and force Caceres to tap out.
Faber won the first two rounds on all three judges’ scorecards, but he wouldn’t classify dealing with Caceres as a walkover.
“I would’ve liked to make that a lot easier, but this is the real world and it’s the fight game,” Faber said. “People have to understand that things will happen out there and it won’t always be an easy fight. He’s a guy that has a lot of range and he’s creative in the scrambles, so I wanted to make it a dirty, ugly fight.”
Faber came into the fight a heavy favorite, so perhaps Caceres lasted longer than many people expected.
Faber said he wasn’t feeling his best after the start of the fight.
“I think I may have broken my rib in the first round at some point,” he said. “Not sure how that happened, but it might’ve slowed me down a bit.”
That didn’t take away from Faber’s aggressiveness. He kept his word to keep pressure on Caceres.
Caceres looked comfortable when on his feet, but whenever the action got rough and turned to grappling and fighting on the mat, Faber was in control.
Even if he does have a broken rib, Faber did not speak as if he’d be down with an injury for long.
Faber is already thinking of getting back into the octagon.
“I really want to stay busy and get back in there as soon as possible,” Faber said. “I haven’t really had the chance to fight on international cards and I think that could be fun. Maybe the Japan show coming up.”
UFC will be in Japan for UFC Fight Night on Sept. 20 at Saitama Super Arena.
Before Japan, Faber will have a big interest in UFC 178, which will be at Sleep Train Arena.
The main event will feature Faber’s Team Alpha Male training partner T.J. Dillashaw defending the UFC bantamweight title against Barao.
Dillashaw scored an upset with his TKO over Barao in a dominant performance in May.
Faber’s last two losses have been against Barao.