Dominick Cruz set for UFC return this weekend

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UFC 178 takes place this weekend and with it, it's bringing some of most eagerly anticipated fights in years. However, one that's slipping under the radar is the return of Dominick Cruz.

The former UFC and WEC Bantamweight champion has spent the last three years of his life battling injury after injury and having to under several surgeries to his ACL.

This weekend he'll face off against Takeya Mizugaki, who is currently ranked #5 in the division and this fight could decide the next challenger to TJ Dillashaw but it's being drowned out by the top fights.

A Forgotten Champion

Cruz was on a 10 fight win streak before his initial injury in 2011 and the last of those wins was against Demetrious 'Mighty Mouse' Johnson, the now Flyweight champion who will headline UFC 178, while Cruz headlines the preliminaries.

While Johnson has gone from strength to strength (if you ignore the PPV numbers) in recent years, becoming king of his division, Cruz had to forfeit his title and watch as Renan Barao, and now TJ Dillashaw stole his thunder.

Perhaps the saving grace for Cruz in the mind of the fans is that for some reason or another, the UFC have refused to remove him from the bantamweight rankings and instead he has slipped to just #10 in the rankings.

It's a not the memory of a great fighter that they remember though, it's that his retention of his rank has lead to many poking holes in the UFC's ranking system.

An innovator of the sport

After three years away from the sport, ring rust is to be expected but nobody can truly call what Cruz we're going to see when he steps into that cage again.

Cruz's fighting style was an enigma and revolutionary. His footwork has gone on to define the bantamweight division, with Dillashaw incorporating Cruz's style on his path to title success.

Many are hoping they get to see that Cruz again, or at least glimpses of it. Being away from fighting for so long is both a disadvantage and an advantage to Cruz.

Mizugaki will have some ideas based on what Cruz used to fight like but whether or not his style has adapted around his injuries will be an anomaly.

The same goes for his place on the card. For the main card, he's going to be overshadowed by the likes Johnson, Conor McGregor and Donald Cerrone.

So to headline the prelims will let the hardcore fans get reacquainted with him and for new fans to see something that is so different to the usual fighter.

After this Saturday, Cruz will either emerge victorious and stake his claim for a title shot. The Master, Cruz, versus The Apprentice, Dillashaw. It sells itself.

With a loss however, Cruz will slip further into MMA irrelevancy and truly be the 'Forgotten Champion'.

Dominick Cruz
Conor McGregor
Renan Barao

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