(Photo: Getty Images)
It’s Been A While
Written by Faiz Khan
T.J. Dillashaw (12-2 MMA, 8-2 UFC), is the current UFC Bantamweight Champion. However, his title comes with an asterisk. This is because the real champion is Dominick Cruz. These are facts. Let me explain.
Dillashaw jumped on the opportunity to fight for the title, entering as a heavy underdog against a seemingly invincible Renan Barao at the time. Dillashaw put on a clinic against Barao, winning the Bantamweight title with a 5th Round technical knockout. People were mesmerized by Dillashaw’s angles and dazzled by his footwork. He then went on to defend his title against Joe Soto, a one day notice replacement after Barao failed to make weight for their rematch, knocking him out in the 5th Round. Then, a year after Dillashaw claimed the title, he faced Barao again for their rematch. Dillashaw once again proved that it was his time, ending the fight with a 27-punch combination starching Barao against the cage in the 4th Round.
Watch the Super Mario Edition here:
T.J. has looked impeccable in his last three fights. His style is unlike anyone else in the division. Except, of course, the true champion of the Bantamweight division.
Dominick Cruz (20-1 MMA, 11-1 WEC/UFC), for all intents and purposes, is the Derrick Rose of MMA. Undefeated at Bantamweight and defending the title a total of 4 times, twice in the UFC after the merge with WEC, Dominick Cruz was sidelined with multiple injuries. After his defense against current Flyweight Champion and current number 2 pound for pound fighter in the world, Demetrious Johnson, Cruz tore his ACL in 2012 requiring 2 surgeries and the UFC implementing an interim title while he recovered. Set to come back after 2 years, Cruz went down again with a torn groin. He was forced to vacate his title to interim champion Renan Barao and it became a question of: “Will we ever see Dominick Cruz again?” However, Cruz stayed resilient and determined to make it back to his crown. Almost three years removed from the Octagon in late 2014, Cruz finally made his comeback against a 5th ranked Takeya Mizugaki at the time. Let’s just say he was eager to finally compete again.
Watch the destruction below:
Finally, after all the setbacks, Cruz finally had a date to get his title back. So when things seemed to be going up, he tore his ACL in his other knee in December 2014. And so, we fast-forward another year and change.
UFC Fight Night 81
January 17th, 2016
Dominick Cruz, finally, has his a date with destiny. He faces someone who many say is a mirror image of Cruz in T.J. Dillashaw, who has looked stellar since claiming the title. While I am a big fan of T.J. Dillashaw, who I bet to win at UFC 173, he will not be able to handle Dominick Cruz the way he has his past two opponents. Dominick Cruz is a different kind of animal. His approach to the sport of Mixed Martial Arts is delicate and intricate. While I’m sure all professional fighters are educating themselves everyday on how to get better and better, Cruz has an elite sense of the sport. For instance, star athletes in professional sports are not just lucky. They have the ability to understand the game in ways that other athletes may not, allowing them to succeed consistently. They soak in every aspect to give them every possible edge and contribute an endless amount of hours to improve their game. They are students of their particular craft. As is Dominick Cruz. He is the type of fighter that thinks two, three steps ahead of his opponent; a purely cerebral fighter. T.J. Dillashaw is by no means far behind. I just don’t believe he is at the level of Dominick Cruz. Cruz’s mental approach, paired with his pioneering footwork and movement, will be too much for the current champion. Dillashaw has tendencies, while Cruz is much more elusive and unpredictable.
The true champion is coming for his crown.