Following three torn ACLs, which cost him nearly four years of his mixed martial arts career, Dominick Cruz is once again seated at the top of the UFC bantamweight division. Following his clear cut victory over nemesis, Urijah Faber at UFC 199, we are left with the question of what is next for the Dominator?
UFC 200 will feature former bantamweight champ, TJ Dillashaw trying to avenge his loss against Raphael Assuncao, with the winner likely being considered for a title shot. Dillashaw’s latest outing this past January was a narrow decision loss to Cruz, which was much anticipated due to the nature of their styles. Despite how entertaining their battle was, fans cringed at the thought of an immediate rematch. With the Faber and Cruz rivalry officially put to bed, Dillashaw can secure his desired rematch, which could make for high ratings and high action. But first, Dillashaw would have to get by Assuncao who like Cruz, could prove that ring rust is nonexistent. Despite riding a seven fight winning streak, Assuncao’s last win came in late 2014 over Bryan Caraway. This does not favor Assuncao’s chances, however speaking of Caraway.
Bryan Caraway is fresh off a win as the headlining act over former undefeated prospect, Aljamain Sterling. Although the fight did not end in a stoppage, Caraway illustrated superior grappling, which could present an interesting problem for the champ. Seeing as there is a shortage of dance partners for Caraway at the moment, we could possibly see the UFC schedule a quick turnaround for Cruz if he is healthy and willing.
UFC 202 will include rising heavy-handed bantamweight Cody Garbrandt facing Takeya Mizugaki. Garbrandt has quickly made a name for himself outside of the octagon during an episode of TUF, when he shoved Conor McGregor during a heated exchange. More importantly, Garbrandt performed in excellent and exciting fashion against Thomas Almeida via KO as the headlining act. Since joining the Dominick Cruz and Team Alpha Male beef, Garbrandt claims that he is already in the champion’s head, which could make for an interesting buildup to their clash. Mizugaki can very well squash No Love’s plans and attempt to settle the score against Cruz, but he is undoubtedly the underdog for good reason. If No Love is capable of pulling off another impressive finish over Mizugaki (the man who Cruz defeated to earn his title shot) who can deny him the title shot?
A dark horse in the race to the title shot could arise less than two weeks at UFC Fight Night 91. Two men notably known for their power, Michael McDonald and John Lineker are expected to put on a barn burner, which could only help their case. Cruz has been dropped before in the past and if anyone has a chance of testing the Dominator’s chin, it’s these two.
Whoever does earn the title shot, would likely make for must see television as the bantamweight division is as deep and exciting as ever before. This month will surely answer a lot of questions and provide interesting conclusions that will leave fans satisfied.