I’ve always felt like there’s a real sense of occasion whenever it is that Dominick Cruz fights these days.
We have been so deprived of his beautiful movement and footwork in recent years due to his battles with injuries that when he does in fact make the walk, it holds a special significance to me that few fighters can replicate.
Dominick faces off with hard-hitting knockout artist Cody Garbrandt at UFC 207, and though there still remains ample time for preparation before they finally meet, the trash-talk is slowly but surely reaching its peak.
There has been a long, long history of animosity between the fighters of the Sacramento-based Team Alpha Male and Cruz, with several high-profile encounters peppering the career of the current bantamweight champion over the years. His trilogy of contests with the gym’s founder Urijah Faber only came to its conclusion earlier this year and with wins over Joseph Benavidez and TJ Dillashaw on his resume, Cruz’s history against Faber’s crew has been successful to date, to say the least.
Now, in what will be the year’s third Alpha Male/Dominick Cruz match-up, the aforementioned Cody Garbrandt will look to add to his ever-growing list of knockout wins when he takes on the incredibly-elusive Cruz for the 135lb strap.
Garbrandt has had a highly successful 2016 so far, with him picking up wins over Augusto Mendes, Thomas Almeida and most-recently Takeya Mizugaki. Each of these wins came by way of knockout, and not one of them reached the end of the first round.
His accomplishments this year speak for themselves and Garbrandt, while speaking to SiriusXM Rush, outlined his belief that a win over Dominick Cruz should make him the #1 candidate for the Fighter of the Year award.
“I think I should be Fighter of the Year. I go from unranked to world champion in one year. Before I got in the UFC, I wrote down on a piece of paper a goal that I was going to make it to the UFC in 2015 and then I’ll be the world champion before 2017 so I’m right on track.
“I pull out that piece of paper all the time and look at it. It’s motivation.”
The confidence exuded by the 25-year-old is commendable, but in Cruz he faces – by far – the greatest challenge of his relatively green career. Garbrandt, known for his punching power, will hope to do what nobody has been able to do before and connect cleanly on the chin of Cruz, ending his reign atop the bantamweight division and at the same time cracking the puzzle that so many have failed to crack in the past.
Despite his indifference to Cruz as a person, Cody went on to show equal parts respect for his opponent’s talents as well as confidence in his own.
“So that’ll be nice, fighter of the year,” he continued, “I think I deserve it. Dominick is one of the top bantamweights, top fighters in the world and obviously with my progression throughout my fights I’m finishing fighters faster and faster and faster each fight.
“So if they want to give me Fighter of the Year after I dismantle Dominick Cruz I’ll be happy to accept the award.”
The pressure of such a high-stakes match-up is a lot for any 25-year-old to take in, regardless of their ability inside the octagon, but in a closing statement Garbrandt spoke briefly on exactly where his focus currently lies.
“I’m focused on just breaking one thing and that’s Dominick’s jaw.”
With three knockout wins in his last three fights you can’t blame the young Garbrandt for exuding such self-belief.
Only time will tell exactly how much of a chance he has against the footwork mastery of Cruz, but with us now just one month away, we will not be too long waiting to find out.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena
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