It’s almost two and a half years since we saw Dominick Cruz in the middle of the Octagon, heading into a trilogy fight with long-time adversary Urijah Faber with the wind beneath his wings.
Tearing his ACL and keeping him out for initially at least a year soon put paid to that momentum though, allowing Brazilian talent Renan Barao to slither his way into a UFC Interim Bantamweight title fight against Faber.
Since then, Barao has been seem as the true champion in many people’s eyes. Cruz has now been forced to surrender his UFC Bantamweight title in the worst manner possible.
However, although this is another while on the side-lines for Cruz, this is without doubt the best thing that could have happened to him.
A 30-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 and has sound claims to be a top-three pound for pound in the UFC, especially 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.
What Cruz thrives on is his unorthodox movement within the octagon. Some call it wrong 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 wary 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 lay-off. 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 possible 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 the Bantamweight ladder will allow Cruz to regain his movement, skills and most importantly confidence again.
If Cruz can finally recover and move back into title contention within the next 12 months it should be considered a massive achievement.
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