Properly hyped or not, tonight’s bantamweight title fight between Dominick Cruz and Demetrious Johnson offers both competitors the chance to make a name for themselves. Sadly, the matter of fact is, this bout would not have sold well had it headlined a PPV. As it stands, Cruz and Johnson will get to display their skills for a wider audience, which on the long run, can only be beneficial. Slowly but surely, Cruz has managed to put on quite the title run, having successfully defended his title three times, besting the likes of Joseph Benavidez, Scott Jorgensen, and Urijah Faber.
Bantamweight title fight: Dominick Cruz vs. Demetrious Johnson
In Johnson, Cruz faces arguably his fastest opponent to date. In fact, it is Johnson’s speed that has allowed him to compensate for the size disadvantage he suffers from in almost all of his fights. Johnson does extremely well to gauge distance for someone with his lack of reach. He uses his quickness and his sharp footwork to get in and out of his opponent’s range, and is actually surprisingly effective when he presses forward with combinations. He likes to finish most of his combinations with kicks, and will continuously look to throw single head kicks — particularly switch kicks — and use them to keep his opponent at bay. The leg kicks could be key for Johnson, as Cruz has proven that his chin is hard to find. Moreover, continuous leg kicks will allow Johnson to cut Cruz off and hamper his movement. The champion is a master at getting on the inside, landing, and emerging unscathed. As such, Johnson needs to stop him in his tracks before he gets to settle into a rhythm and start landing his combos and kicks. Kicks could come at a price for Johnson however, as he learned in his bout with Brad Pickett, where “Mighty Mouse” found himself repeatedly taken down off of kicks that his opponent was able to catch. Someone as savvy as Cruz will surely look to capitalize.
Cruz has developed quite a unique and unorthodox style, which so far has proven to be tough to figure out. The irony lies in the fact that Cruz’s head movement and especially, footwork, are quite flawed as he continuously tends to tuck his head down a little too much, while also throwing before both feet are fully set on the mat. What Faber managed to do against Cruz is time a few counter right crosses after his opponent moves in within range. Moreover, Faber found some success when pressing Cruz, particularly in the striking. Johnson will surely look to do that, but his game is ultimately designed towards changing levels and securing the takedowns. Against Cruz, this has been almost impossible to achieve, as “The Dominator” has managed to shut down one wrestler after the other. Furthermore, his offensive wrestling has been instrumental in his success. He does a tremendous job at setting up his sharp kneetap with a 1-2 combo, and it always seems to catch his opponents off-guard.
Johnson’s takedown defense isn’t bulletproof, but he’s extremely good at hip escaping and scrambling back to his feet. In the early going, he will likely prove very hard to hold down. However, one has to question whether Cruz’s size will eventually wear on him. And that highlights the real problem for Johnson: Not only is this a stylistically tough match-up for him as he is coming up against a better striker with great takedown defense and very good wrestling, but he is also at a significant size and reach disadvantage. Expect Cruz to do his thing: consistently land three punch combos, finish with kicks, switch levels, and put Johnson on his back. The challenger will have his moments, but it is unlikely to be enough to stop Cruz from scoring a decisive decision victory.
Official prediction: Dominick Cruz to beat Demetrious Johnson by Decision
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC