“We’re only as strong as the battles we’ve beaten right? And I’ve had some tough battles. I’ve had everything I earned taken away from me”
For any professional athlete, there is nothing more frustrating and painful than watching on from the sidelines while you recover from a debilitating injury. If you are unable to perform to the high standards that you routinely set yourself it can destroy your character. Nobody has experienced this crushing blow more fully than former UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz.
Four years ago at age 26 Cruz had the world of mixed martial arts at his feet. He ran roughshod through both the WEC and UFC bantamweight division’s amassing a pro record of 19 wins with his only loss coming to bitter rival Urijah Faber in a title fight at featherweight. Although a fierce proposition at 145 pounds Cruz really started to mature when he made the cut ten pounds south to 135. At this weight class, he took out some of the biggest names in the sport such as Ian McCall, Brian Bowles and Joseph Benavidez (twice). He captured the WEC bantamweight title from Bowles and defended it twice. His last title defence against Scott Jorgensen would then earn him the inaugural UFC bantamweight championship of the world as the UFC and WEC merged allowing for the spotlight to be placed on the lower weight classes.
Upon signing with the UFC Cruz would get his rematch against Faber avenging the loss from 2007 winning a competitive unanimous decision at UFC 132. He then faced the Demetrious Johnson in October 2011 and once again proved his greatness by handing “Mighty Mouse” his last professional loss (DJ would move down to the flyweight division after the fight) however, the dominance that he has shown since shines a light on the skill level that Cruz possesses.
Coached by famed trainer Eric Del Fierro at Alliance MMA Cruz had begun to revolutionise striking for mixed martial arts. His ability to bamboozle his opponents with superior footwork, angles and constant switching of stances allowed him to open up with combinations, get to the inside and move away before taking substantial counter strikes. Although his methods allowed experienced fighters like Faber to catch him occasionally, for the most part, these were glancing blows as Cruz moved in and out at lightning speed.
As opposed to boxing where there is a heavy emphasis placed on movement up until this point nobody had arguably worked as hard as Dominick at transferring these techniques over to MMA. His intelligent approach to the sport showed that he was certainly ahead of his time and far superior to his contemporaries in the bantamweight division. He was so far ahead in fact that many commentators questioned whether his methods were awkward and clumsy when in fact they were exceptional.
By the time, he was scheduled to coach opposite Faber in the thirteenth season of the Ultimate Fighter it could be argued that Cruz had effectively cleaned out the bantamweight division. After a very entertaining season of TUF, he was due to face Urijah once again in a rubber match in July 2012 at UFC 148.
Just as Cruz was beginning to receive the credit he rightfully deserved things started to fall apart rapidly. One month before the UFC 148 he received crushing news that he had torn his ACL and would require surgery to fix it.
Cue an interim title set up by the UFC brass to find out who would face the Dominator upon his return. Renan Barao would duly beat Faber to secure a future date with Cruz. In the meantime, Dominick had also had his second surgery to correct the original ACL procedure that had not gone smoothly.
His scheduled return was UFC 169 were he and Barao would meet to unify the bantamweight belts. After the disappointment of the knee trouble that had forced him out for well over a year, Cruz hoped to show the world that he was still a relevant force to be reckoned with. Some analysts saw this as one step too far as Barao had not lost in nearly a decade and carved his own path to gold with some spectacular finishes along the way while Dominick had been injured for two long years.
As the bout on February 1st approached, excitement surrounding Cruz’ return had reached fever pitch. Could the reigning champion prove that the injuries had not set him back in the long term? Could he take out a monster in Barao that Dana White would name the pound for pound best fighter in the world later on that year? Mixed Martial Arts is all about questions and answers and this fight had many.
The fever pitch evaporated as swiftly at is it had begun when news broke that Cruz would be pulling out of the fight. On January 1st, it was confirmed that he had suffered a tear in his groin muscle and would be stripped of the title. Despondent and beltless many would have expected Cruz to maybe turn away from the sport that he had given so much to but had broken down his body in return.
In his absence, Barao would be declared the undisputed bantamweight champion and defeat Faber in the first round of his inaugural title defence. While Barao gained fame and widespread acclaim Cruz for a brief period became an afterthought, a story of an athlete who may never live up to the huge potential he had shown in previous championship fights.
These are the points in an athlete’s career where he is forced to look inward. Many would see the benefit on giving up on an already stellar career. Dominick had reached the pinnacle of the sport before even reaching his athletic prime. He had experienced the high of becoming a world champion not once but twice only for it all to be stolen from him in cruel circumstances.
In the recent episode of UFC Embedded Cruz highlighted how his success as a fighter defined who he was. In the years since his first knee injury, Dominick has had to reinvent himself not only as a fighter but more importantly as a person. The ability to accept one’s fate and allow oneself to forget what made he/ she great previously is something that not many successful people are able to do. How many times in MMA alone have we seen countless legends of the sport who are unable to let it go? Chuck Liddell, BJ Penn and Rich Franklin all suffered brutal ends to their careers because of this. Yet Cruz’ maturity and ability to move on from his former life allowed for the opportunity.
He embraced a role as an analyst for the UFC on Fox. Quickly it was clear that he was naturally gifted at speaking to an audience, and Cruz was lauded for his knack at breaking down combat sequences making it accessible for those who had not previously followed mixed martial arts.
Through this medium, he was able to approach life positively again.
With the confidence, he had gained from his position next to Brian Stann and Daniel Cormier to name but a few, Cruz began the long road back to recovery. It had taken three years and three surgeries before we would see Dominick back in the cage. Nobody could have foreseen what would take place at UFC 178 in September 2014. Matched against a top ten ranked opponent in Takeya Mizugaki who was riding a five fight win streak and had title aspirations of his own, Cruz made the fight as one sided as it could be.
The unpredictable Dominick Cruz of old was on display that night. The feints, the shifts, the takedowns and the mesmerising footwork were all there. Ominously for the rest of the division, his finishing instinct was the most impressive part of his performance. Considered by some a conservative fighter, Cruz hurt Mizugaki early and did not let him recover. The finish came just after the one minute mark and Cruz didn’t hold back in his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan. He immediately let TJ Dillashaw know that he was coming for what was his. “Nothing’s changed I’m just looking forward to beating more Alpha Fails”
Although Cruz would ultimately be pulled from the scheduled matchup with Dillashaw last year following another ACL tear, this time in the opposite knee, his brief return in 2014 shone a light on the former champion’s incredible heart. The talent will always be there but what separates Cruz from most of the UFC’s talented athletes is his stubbornness and iron will. Countless surgeries had not stopped Cruz from returning so a world class opponent in Mizugaki would not stop him from stealing the show. This is what makes his return this Sunday so intriguing.
Dillashaw has looked unstoppable in the past two years aggressively finishing the last three title fights he has been involved in by way of knockout. Ordinarily a fighter returning from numerous injuries would stand no chance against a man who is beginning to lay his own path of greatness. Cruz, however, is not an ordinary fighter. He has risen from the ashes repeatedly and displayed grit and determination. He is to put it simply extraordinary. If the former bantamweight kingpin can once again defy the odds and reclaim his crown it will undoubtedly be the greatest comeback story in Mixed Martial Arts short history.
*Live Updates* UFC Winnipeg Official Results
The UFC returns to Canada for the final Fight Night card of 2017. In the cold of Winnipeg, Manitoba, the UFC will host eleven of the originally twelve scheduled fights. Unfortunately, Tim Elliot will not fight in the north country. His scheduled opponent, Pietro Menga, a newcomer to the promotions roster, failed to make weight after taking the bout with just over a weeks notice.
An exciting main card will be capped off with a potential contender eliminator bout featuring, Robbie Lawler and Rafael Dos Anjos. The former champions (Lawler at welterweight, Dos Anjos at lightweight) both put together impressive win streaks which dispatched top contenders in their respective divisions. Elsewhere on the main card, Santiago Ponzinibbio takes on the outspoken Mike Perry.
The card begins on UFC Fight Pass at 4:30/1:30 ETPT.
UFC Winnipeg Official Results:
MAIN CARD – FOX – 8PM/5PM ETPT
- #2 Robbie Lawler (28-11) vs. #4 Rafael Dos Anjos (27-9) – Welterweight bout
- Result: Rafael Dos Anjos def. Robbie Lawler via unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-45)
- #3 Ricardo Lamas (18-5) vs. Josh Emmett (12-1) – Catchweight bout (148.5 lbs)
- Result: Josh Emmett def. Ricardo Lamas via KO (punch) 4:33 round 1
- #10 Santiago Ponzinibbio (25-3) vs. Mike Perry (11-1) – Welterweight bout
- Result: Santiago Ponzinibbio def. Mike Perry via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- #3 Glover Teixeira (26-6) vs. #7 Misha Cirkunov (13-3) – Light Heavyweight bout
- Result: Glover Teixeira def. Misha Cirkunov via TKO (punches) 2:45 round 1
PRELIMINARY CARD – FS1 – 5PM/2PM ETPT
- #14 Jared Cannonier (10-2) vs #15 Jan Blachowicz (20-7) – Light Heavyweight bout
- Result: Jan Blachowicz def. Jared Cannonier via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Julian Marquez (6-1) vs. Darren Stewart (7-2) – Middleweight bout
- Result: Julian Marquez def. Darren Stewart via submission (standing guillotine) 2:42 round 2
- Chad Laprise (13-2) vs. Galore Bofando (5-2) – Welterweight bout
- Result: Chad Laprise def. Galore Bofando via TKO (punches) 4:10 round 1
- Nordine Taleb (13-4) vs Danny Roberts (14-2) – Welterweight bout
- Result: Nordine Taleb def. Danny Roberts via KO (head kick and punch) :59 round 1
- John Makdessi (14-6) vs Abel Trujillo (15-7) – Lightweight bout
- Result: John Makdessi def. Abel Trujillo via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Alessio Di Chirico (10-2) vs Oluwale Bamgbose (6-3) – Middleweight bout
- Result: Alessio Di Chirico def. Oluwale Bamgbose via KO (knee) 2:14 round 2
EARLY PRELIMINARY CARD – UFC FIGHT PASS – 4:30PM/1:30PM ETPT
- Jordan Mein (29-12) vs. Erick Silva (19-8) – Welterweight bout
- Result: Jordan Mein def. Erick Silva via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-26)
Gilbert Burns vs. Olivier Aubin-Mercier Added to UFC Orlando
The UFC has now added more bouts to the front end of their 2018 schedule. Gilbert Burns (13-2, 5-2 UFC) will face Olivier Aubin-Mercier (10-2, 6-2 UFC) in Orlando, Florida on February 24th, 2018.
— UFC Canada (@UFC_CA) December 14, 2017
Alongside a few other high-profile fight announcements, is the addition to the UFC Orlando, Florida card. The two lightweights will join Jake Collier and Marcin Prachnio, as the second fight set for the event.
It has been a while since the UFC hosted an event in the state of Florida. Last seen by the Floridians was UFC on Fox: Texeira vs. Evans, on April 16, 2016 in Tampa Bay. The card was a success, despite the cancellation of its planned main event between Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov. Drawing a gate of $1.05 million and 2.13 million viewers.
Gilbert Burns signed with the UFC after accumulating an undefeated record of 8-0. His first loss came in his home country of Brazil, as Rashid Magomedov defeated him via unanimous decision at UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Henderson 3, in November of 2015.
In his most recent bout, Burns defeated Jason Saggo by KO with five seconds remaining in the second round at UFC Fight Night: Rockhold vs. Branch.
Aubin-Mercier will come into the contest as a winner in his last three bouts. The Canadian fighter trains out of the Tristar gym, alongside legends such as Georges St. Pierre and head coach, Firas Zahabi.
In 2011, Aubin-Mercier was chosen to compete on The Ultimate Fighter: Nations. Competing in the welterweight bracket, he became a finalist by defeating both, Jake Mathews (unanimous decision) and Richard Walsh (rear naked choke). In the finale, Aubin-Mercier lost to Chad Laprise by split decision.
UFC Orlando will take place at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida on February 24th, 2018.
Eryk Anders vs. Lyoto Machida Officially Headlines UFC Belem
Eryk Anders vs. Lyoto Machida is officially booked to headline UFC Belem in Brazil.
Following his unanimous decision victory over Markus Perez on last weekends, UFC Fight Night: Ortega vs. Swanson, undefeated middleweight, Eryk Anders, called for the match-up with former UFC light heavyweight champion, Lyoto Machida. The UFC heard, and obliged.
First reported by The MMA Kings (@mma_kings.)
EXCLUSIVE: My sources tell me that Eryk Anders (@erykanders) has gotten his wish. He'll headline UFC Fight Night: Belem against Lyoto Machida (@lyotomachidafw) in Brazil. Ask and you shall receive. #UFC pic.twitter.com/qX62A9qH6k
— The MMA Kings (Nolan King) (@mma_kings) December 14, 2017
Anders holds a 2-0 undefeated record in the UFC. The Alabama native made his promotional debut against Rafael Nata in July of this year. A bout he took on short notice, replacing Alessio di Chirico whom withdrew from the fight due to a neck injury. Anders defeated Natal by knockout in the first round that night at UFC Long Island.
Prior to his indoctrination to MMA, the undefeated middleweight played for the University of Alabama football team, between 2006-2009.
Machida recently returned to the UFC roster after an 18-month suspension handed down by USADA, stemming from a failed out-of-competition test leading up to his April 2016 contest against Dan Henderson.
In his return to the octagon, Machida faced Derek Brunson in the main-event of the UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs. Machida, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. “The Dragon” lost the bout via first round KO.
UFC Belem, Brazil is scheduled for February 3rd, 2018, at the Mangueirinho Arena. The card will also feature the flyweight debut for Valentina Shevchenko as she faces Priscila Cachoeira.
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