It’s been nearly a month since UFC 269, where Julianna Pena dethroned women’s GOAT Amanda Nunes to become the UFC women’s bantamweight champion, and where UFC lightweight champion Charles Oliveira defended his title for the first time against former interim champion Dustin Poirier.
On this very card, co-headlining the prelims, was the return of former multi-time WEC and UFC bantamweight champion, arguably the best 135-lb fighter of all time, Dominick Cruz. He faced No. 8 ranked Pedro Munhoz, coming in at No. 9 himself.
This turned into perhaps the best performance we’ve seen out of Cruz, which is really saying something, considering the remarkably illustrious career he’s already had.
After being badly hurt in the first round, Cruz bounced back to win the rest of the round, as well as the final two. His footwork looked as good as ever, and there’s something we saw out of him that’s been recently added to his arsenal.
In his last two fights, his last two returns, Cruz was quite susceptible to leg kicks against both Henry Cejudo and Casey Kenney. Unfortunately, the Cejudo fight was taken from him in a very unjust way, but we did see him overcome them in his bout with Kenney, though Kenney did still land 23 of them, the same amount as Cejudo.
At UFC 269, he fought a very dangerous striker in Pedro Munhoz, a good boxer that’s particularly effective with leg kicks against a lot of his opponents, but Cruz’ elusiveness and skillset was too much for the Brazilian, as he defeated him 29-28 on all three scorecards, improving his record to 24-3 in the process.
Now that he’s on a two-fight win streak, going 2-0 in 2021, what’s next for Dominick Cruz?
When looking at the rankings, there are so many potential opponents he could face that’d turn into great fights.
Munhoz has since dropped down to No. 10, while Cruz jumped up one to No. 7.
Firstly, there are two primary fights most of us want to see: Dominick Cruz vs Jose Aldo, and Dominick Cruz vs Sean O’Malley.
Jose Aldo (31-7), like Cruz, is a multi-time world champion in the WEC & UFC, only himself at 145 lbs. He dropped down to 135 lbs at the end of 2019 and initially suffered two-straight defeats, though his split decision loss to Marlon Moraes was heavily debated, and the other defeat came in a title fight against Petr Yan that he was looking great in early on.
If that were a three-round fight, Aldo would’ve gotten the nod 29-28.
Nonetheless, the King of Rio is now on a three-fight win streak, and he’s now ranked at No. 3 after his dominant victory over Rob Font early last month.
Interestingly enough, this bout was actually being talked about to headline UFC 207 back in December of 2016, the night Cruz lost his crown to Cody Garbrandt. Cruz was set to move up and challenge Aldo for his belt in a champion versus champion clash.
That of course didn’t happen, but it could in the coming months.
Next of course is No. 12 ranked Sean O’Malley (15-1), who’s looked incredible throughout his career thus far into it.
O’Malley has one lone defeat, to Marlon Vera via TKO (injury), a fight he was looking better than ever in.
Since then, O’Malley’s gone 3-0 with three-straight knockouts, and three-straight Performance of the Night awards.
With Cruz’ footwork and O’Malley’s accuracy and devastating shot selection, this would really be something if it were booked.
No. 6 ranked Merab Dvalishvili would be a super interesting match up as well, as he’s won his last seven-straight, winning 32-straight rounds, finishing off his streak with a TKO victory over Marlon Moraes in the fall.
The last two names we’ll mention are No. 2 ranked TJ Dillashaw (17-4) and No. 4 ranked Cory Sandhagen (14-4).
Dillashaw, a former multi-time UFC bantamweight champion, the only other arguable goat to the division, would make for an epic fight, and rematch with Dominick Cruz.
Their first fight was incredible, and resulted in one of, if not the most beautiful moment in combat sports history.
Cruz had battled injuries more than anyone, his career was literally taken away from him, and more than once. He was a dominant champion that was forced out of action for three years, being stripped of his title in that time.
Once Cruz came back, he returned against top ranked Takeya Mizugaki, who was on a serious streak himself. This was an absolutely crazy return, as he KO’d Mizugaki in a mere 61 seconds, an incredibly surprising outcome; Cruz isn’t per se a finisher, and Mizugaki is durable as hell.
Nonetheless, Cruz was back! Or was he?
Cruz was forced out another 16 months with injuries up until he was finally healthy enough to challenge TJ Dillashaw for the UFC bantamweight championship, something he never lost in a fight.
After a razor-thin back-and-forth war, Cruz was awarded the victory, and his prestigious belt via split decision.
Especially considering how close their first fight was, and how good of a contest it was, who wouldn’t want to see this again? Dillashaw does deserve a title shot, as he never lost his belt in a fight either, not to mention he just beat Cory Sandhagen over the summer.
However, Petr Yan versus Aljamain Sterling II still needs to go down first. That leaves Dillashaw out until the summer of 2022 at the very earliest. So, could, or would he take a rematch with Cruz and try to get his win back?
Then we have Sandhagen, this is a guy that appears to have refined Cruz’ style into his own, as has Dillashaw. They both have unbelievable footwork and both are quite accurate as well, though Sandhagen would appear to be the more dangerous party.
Out of all these names, who would you like to see Dominick Cruz face next?
Honestly, with one more win, he could be knocking on the door to a title shot. How crazy would that be?
If you enjoyed this piece, please feel free to share it on social media!
I became a fan of combat sports when I was 12 years old. I was scrolling through the channels and landed upon versus, where WEC was televised. Urijah Faber fought Jens Pulver for the second time that night. That’s the first fight I saw, and the fight that got me hooked on the sport. Since then, the sport has grown so rapidly, and my goal is to enlighten everyone on what’s going on in the sport today.