By: Mike Coughlin
Proving Up Dominick Cruz
On Saturday, the most dominant fighter of 2010 steps into the Octagon to make his UFC debut. To a casual fan, the name Dominick Cruz may not immediately ring any bells. To fans who followed the now defunct World Extreme Cagefighting, they bore witness to his dominance throughout last year. Only one man won three world title fights in 2010, and it wasn’t Georges St. Pierre or Anderson Silva or Jose Aldo or Frankie Edgar – it was Cruz. And these weren’t quick, one punch Mike Tyson-like (or should it now be Cheick Kongo-like?) wins. These were the kind of one-sided, complete in every facet of the game, wins that leave a viewer to ask one question: how can anyone ever beat this guy? At 17-1, the answer appears to be that almost no one knows.
Unless you’re the man who gave him that one – unless you’re Urijah Faber.
The poster-child for the WEC, the man who headed the featherweight division for years and lead the lightest weight classes from obscurity to PPV main-event status, Faber is the only person to beat Cruz. And not only did Faber beat Cruz, he tapped the world’s best bantamweight in the first round with a guillotine choke. For a time, it was just another featherweight title defense for Faber as he ran through the 145 lb class with ease. Since then, Cruz has dropped to bantamweight, won the championship, looked unbeatable, destroyed everyone in his path, etc… But, it’s still The Faber Show on Saturday when these two meet. The talk isn’t “DOMINICK CRUZ DEFENDS HIS TITLE” but more, “FABER LOOKS TO GET THE GOLD.” The emphasis is on Faber and what he will do and how he can once again be king of the mountain. And that’s what must be most frustrating for Cruz as he looks to defend his (now) UFC Bantamweight Title for the first time – no matter what he’s done, Faber is still the one getting all of the attention.
You can’t really blame people for caring what Faber does. The man is a unique star in the world of MMA; good looking, charismatic, incredible fighters don’t grow on trees. That’s all fine and good, but Cruz is the champion of the world. He is the man who gets to wake up every day, swing his feet over the side of the bed, slip on some oversized cartoon slippers (just go with it), look in the mirror as he brushes his teeth, and say to himself, “There isn’t a bantamweight on the planet that can beat me.” Last year alone, over the course of those three fights, Cruz was inside the cage for exactly one hour. For sixty minutes, men tried to do something to Cruz, from landing a big punch, to smothering him with a takedown, or pulling a crazy submission out of nowhere. And they couldn’t. He was perfect for an hour. Hell, Shane Carwin’s entire fourteen fight MMA career hasn’t been an hour!
But to hear the talk, it’s Cruz that needs to prove something on Saturday. Why? Because he lost to Faber four years ago? In the four years since, Cruz is the fighter who is undefeated, not Faber. Cruz is the fighter who has won every title fight he’s been in, not Faber. Cruz is the one whose style is so perplexing that no one knows what to do with it. Faber, however, is the fighter who has lost his last three title fights. In his last seven fights, Cruz is perfect, while Faber is a relatively average 4-3. Faber is the fighter that seems to be coming up short time and time again in the big moments, not Cruz. On Saturday, it should be Faber with something to prove.
That’s OK. Let Faber have this moment. It could be his last. A loss on Saturday and it’ll be difficult to see The California Kid getting another title shot at any weight class any time soon. Faber can be the focal point, for now. He can be at the top of the marquee, the one getting all of the promo time. He can be the poster-boy. Hey, with his body of work, no one would fault the guy for being the center of attention. He really is that darn good. But never forget that Dominick Cruz is the Bantamweight Champion of the World. Saturday, he’ll prove it to the world.
Mike Coughlin is the host of Five Star Radio. He has a lot to prove to his mother (apparently).