Ahead of his clash with Takeya Mizugaki, former UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz has been eager to make his anticipated return to the Octagon after suffering multiple knee injuries that kept him out of action and cost him his title belt in the process.
Both men showed up to media day, Cruz with a gelled up bowl cut and a determined look in his eye while Mizugaki had a sleepy face with his hair looking like he just got out of bed. Turns out Cruz was “Hurting” on weigh in day, and I’m wondering if the cut could hinder his performance to go with his extremely long layoff going into Saturday night. But that’s a factor that’s just in the back of the mind of his grappling coach.
While he was gone, other 135 pounders have taken control of the title picture, such as Renan Barao, TJ Dillashaw and Raphael Assuncao. Now, with the old king of the division making his way back to the cage at UFC 178: Johnson vs Cariaso to avenge what he never lost, there’s one man standing between him and an opportunity to fight for the championship title.
Cruz’s coach spoke with Michael Sets of MMAMania.com, comparing the remarkable performance TJ Dillashaw put forth to dethrone Renan Barao while his fighter was out on the sidelines.
“You know how TJ beat Barao? It was almost a taste of Dominick, but it’s not Dominick,” Melanson said. “The way he mixed things up and the way he moved was kind of like Dominick Cruz, but it wasn’t Dominick Cruz. It was exciting for me, because to see other people recognize the madness in which Dominick Cruz exists. He’s a madman.”
Every fight fan questions how good Cruz will look following a couple knee surgeries and for good reason. It’s not every day that you see athletes come back and look like they did in their prime when they have been sitting on the shelf for so long. But that also has to be in the back of the former titleholder’s mind as well.
And as always, you can return to Fightline.com for everything related to the big show this weekend, whether it’s round-by-round coverage in our play-by-play, weigh in results and video, post-fight analysis, or full fight highlight videos.