Dominick Cruz’s near 10 years without a loss came to end last December at UFC 207 against Cody “No Love” Garbrandt. Cruz was clear that he intends to return to fight for the UFC bantamweight title upon return, but what are his chances of regaining the gold at this stage of his career?
While Cruz just turned 32 in March, he is notorious for his three ACL surgeries in the span of three years. With the knee injuries in the rearview, Cruz’s current vulnerability comes in the form of plantar fascia tendinitis, which has played a significant factor since Cruz’s preparation for his 2016 fight against TJ Dillashaw.
While Cruz was able to overcome the plantar fasciitis to pull off a split decision win over Dillashaw followed by a win over Uriah Faber in June at UFC 199, he stepped in the octagon against a superior striker in Cody Garbrandt and lost.
Cruz didn’t want to make any excuses, but with the amount of effort placed on his footwork, there is no doubt the discomfort will remain present going forward. Cruz’s confidence didn’t appear to be affected leading up to the fight against Garbrandt, but we saw him become emotional and abandon his game plan while opting to trade with Garbrandt at certain points in their bout. Cruz’s mind games leading up to the fight were all for naught as “No Love” made Cruz look foolish in various exchanges as the “Dominator” was the one swinging at dead air. Cruz stated that he lost a game of inches, it was a lot more clear cut than that.
While fans will point at Cruz’s injured wheels as the reason for his loss, the hand speed difference between both men was very apparent as well as the wrestling ability. Within minutes of the affair, Garbrandt was able to land on Cruz via quick right hand counters. Late in round 1 Cruz ducked under a straight right, changing levels in a double leg attempt, but was met with a wicked reversal. Cruz quickly went from predator to prey as his neck was in danger leading him to pull away from the clinch.
Garbrandt later time a strong double leg takedown seconds before the end of the round and while it wasn’t long before both men were back on their feet, it signified a turn in the tide.
Cruz arguably won both round 2 and round 5 according to two scorecards, but those rounds were close enough to go the other way. Garbrandt on the other hand clearly won rounds 1,3, and 4. Cruz, known for his multitude of decision victories over his opponents, could not score a decision win over “No Love” and he certainly couldn’t finish him. By round 3 Cruz ate an unbalanced head kick and suffered a nasty cut above his eye in the process. Cruz was not only getting touched, he was tasting his own blood.
Cruz’s heart is still very much present as seen in how he manage to continue to get up and move forward following severe knockdowns by his younger counterpart. The problem with heart is that if you can’t match the skill of your opponent or possess the power to leave it out of the judge’s scorecards, it won’t do you any good.
While Garbrandt displayed interest in an immediate rematch for the longtime bantamweight king, Cruz opted to sit and await the winner between Garbrandt and TJ Dillashaw. With their fight likely rescheduled for the end of the year, Cruz will be waiting at least a year until he steps back into competition.
The time off could be beneficial for him in preparing a new game plan for “No Love” or perhaps a rematch against Dillashaw, but it’s hard to believe Cruz will be able to catch up to the current champ. Dillashaw has a chance at dethroning Garbrandt and if he does, Cruz will still have his hands full considering their fight was very close.
It might be too late for Cruz to catch up to Garbrandt, but then again he did manage to beat the odds last time out.