Dominick Cruz ready to rebound from first loss in nearly a decade

MMA


For just the second time in his career, all-time bantamweight great Dominick “The Dominator” Cruz (22-2) is coming off a loss.

The last was in 2007. That time, Cruz waited 364 days before his return, a first-round knockout of Kenneth Aimes at Total Combat 27. This time, Cruz will walk into the cage exactly one year after his unanimous-decision championship loss to Cody Garbrandt (11-0).

As Garbrandt readies to defend the belt against the man from whom Cruz took it, T.J. Dillashaw (14-3), Cruz heads outside the 135-pound triumvirate to face Jimmie Rivera (21-1) at UFC 219 on Dec. 30 in Las Vegas.

“I just had to make sure I felt 100 percent,” Cruz said. “I used to be able to do three fights per year. I think now, at this point in my career, I’m going to have to stick to two fights per year.

“And I’m OK with that, because I’m doing this because I enjoy doing this.”

Cruz, to be fair, has a résumé that warrants title fights and eliminators exclusively. Before his loss to Garbrandt at UFC 207, Cruz went 13-0 over nine years, cleaning out the WEC and UFC bantamweight divisions in the process. Among the men hanging their heads as official decisions were read, all with a belt on the line: former champ Dillashaw, pound-for-pound king Demetrious Johnson (26-2-1) and UFC Hall of Fame inductee Urijah Faber (34-10) (twice).

Cruz doesn’t hide that becoming champion again is his explicit goal. He says the fight opposite Rivera, ranked the No. 3 bantamweight contender, is his means to that end.

“We don’t make near as much money — we don’t get paid near the same — unless we fight for the belt,” Cruz said. “It doesn’t matter, though. Jimmie Rivera, to me, is the title fight. This is how I’ve approached every fight until now: The person they put in front of me is the title. That’s it.”

Cruz will need to imagine a belt is on the line for only the second time in the last eight years. The other time, he dismantled Takeya Mizugaki (21-12-2) in 61 seconds at UFC 178. It was Cruz’s first appearance after a three-year hiatus following a litany of injuries and medical setbacks that forced him to vacate the belt.

This test seems more formidable. Rivera is 5-0 since joining the UFC in 2015, with four of the five wins going the full 15 minutes. The 28-year-old is unbeaten since his second career fight in 2008, a split-decision loss at 150 pounds.

The 32-year-old Cruz has a significant advantage in height, reach and experience. He says the recipe for a championship return is simple, albeit a bit ambiguous.

“I just have to be me, man,” Cruz said. “Me being me doesn’t lose to Jimmie Rivera. But more importantly, a healthy me doesn’t lose to anybody in the world.”



Source link

Products You May Like

Articles You May Like

Wales Scott Baldwin explains lucky escape after lion bite
Defenseman Mark Streit not reporting to AHL, will weigh options
Dale Earnhardt Jr. happy to leave final Talladega race in good health
United States Grand Prix: Can Hamilton wrap up title at ‘little jewel’ Austin?
Why wasn’t Chicago Cubs closer Wade Davis on mound in ninth? – Chicago Cubs Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *