It’s almost two and a half years since we saw Dominick Cruz in the middle of the Octagon. He was going into his trilogy fight with rival Uriajh Faber with the wind beneath his wings. He had an Ultimate Fighter coaching role where he could promote his fight in style, when he was coaching his nemesis Faber.
Tearing his ACL and keeping him out for initially at least a year, this allowed Brazilian talent Renan Barao to slither his way into a UFC Interim Bantamweight Title fight against Faber. Since then, Barao has been seen as the champion in many people’s eyes.
Now suffering with a groin strain when ‘The Dominator’ was making his well awaited match with the interim champion, Cruz has had to surrender his UFC Bantamweight Title in the worst mannerism possible.
However, although this is another while on the side-lines for Cruz, this is without a doubt the best thing that could have happened to him.
A thirty month lay off is bad enough for any fighter. Nevertheless, to go into a title fight against Barao, who has fought three times since Cruz has been on the side-lines is even more difficult. Barao is an elite fighter within the UFC and has sound claims to be a top three pound for pound fighter with Anderson Silva and GSP out of the picture. At 31-1, Barao is certainly no pushover. The Brazilian has looked unstoppable in every single fight we’ve seen him in, especially in his last fight when his spinning back kick put Eddie Wineland’s lights out in his last outing.
What Cruz thrives on is his unorthodox movement within the Octagon. Some call it wrong (which technically it is) however it works for the American – so much so that he boasts nineteen wins with it against some real class fighters. The angles ‘The Dominator’ throws his strikes from are what confuses his opponents as they always have to be sceptical of him throwing from any angle. This movement however will not come back to Cruz overnight. The strain on his knee may force it to come gradually. That too may take a few fights.
Ring rust is bad enough for any fighter coming off a long layoff. Yet, for a man like Cruz, to get your movement right it may take a lot longer than others. I think that coming back in six months’ time and meeting someone like Eddie Wineland or TJ Dillashaw will be better for Cruz. I think if Cruz remained fit for his comeback and met Barao, it would have been a wash over.
The Brazilians confidence is sky high. He’s defended his Interim title twice against two of the best fighters at 135lbs in Wineland and Michael McDonald. To this, training with the some of the best at Nova Uniao including possibly the best striker in the UFC, Jose Aldo can’t be bad either. Losing to Barao would completely knock ‘The Dominators’ confidence and with the amount of injuries he’s recently faced, maybe even see him consider retirement.
Now, although he will be down from another injury, rising up the bantamweight ladder will allow Cruz to regain his movement, skills and most importantly confidence again. If the is fighting for the title again by this time next year, then that is a massive achievement.