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UFC 249: Cejudo vs Cruz Preview

UFC 249 is set to go down on May 9th, and while the headline fight is a possible fight of the year candidate, the co-main event also has many fans intrigued.

Henry Cejudo was originally set to face former featherweight champion, José Aldo. However, with Aldo unable to leave Brazil, we have the former Bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz step in instead.

Why is This Fight So Interesting?

On the surface, this matchup seems heavily lopsided. Cejudo coming off three huge wins and is in the form of his career. Then we come to Dominick Cruz. Cruz hasn’t fought in over three years since losing the title in 2017 to Cody Garbrandt. The former champion has attempted to return but has been struck with many injuries. And therein lies the story of Dominick Cruz’s career.

What makes this fight so fun is: Can Dominick Cruz recreate the magic that saw him reclaim the title against TJ Dillashaw in 2017, or will Henry Cejudo continue his reign as champion?

Let’s take a small look at how they match up.

The Champion

Henry Cejudo has evolved exponentially over the last few years. Having developed a unique striking style with a more side-on ‘karate style’ and has shown an improved ability to use kicks and knees.

Most notably in recent times, Cejudo has shown tremendous ability to adapt on the fly. After having his ankle fail on him early in the Demetrious Johnson fight. Or having his legs kicked by Marlon Moraes to the point where he had to switch stance constantly. Cejudo has shown time and time again he can weather the storm.

Lastly, we come to Cejudo’s wrestling ability. This pretty much speaks for itself or least henry gold medal will as he never forgets to remind the fans. The self-proclaimed ‘CCC’ has become an ultra-dynamic fighter with a deep tool kit.

The Challenger

Dominick Cruz has possibly the best fighting mind in all of MMA. Having come from the WEC Cruz has been a longtime elite bantamweight fighter. Let’s break it down.

Dominick has a very unusual strike style, no one technique is thrown in a way your coach would tell you and they come from angles the average fighter just does not throw from. Looping punches that hit you from every angle, kicks that you’re never quite sure when they’re coming either the former champion has mastered style all of his own.

The feints are the second component, we’ve seen Cruz’s ability to feint confuse and keep back some of his more aggressive opposition. The feints coupled with his unique style of strike make for just a headache for his opponents to figure out what he’s doing next.

Lastly the wrestling, possibly the only skill the fighters share in common is their high wrestling ability. While Cejudo’s is better on paper, Cruz’s lightening quick ability to scramble and his overall size have helped him win most wrestling exchanges.

Overall Dominick Cruz is a very unique puzzle to solve and while it can be done it’s a tough task in itself.

The Verdict

Henry Cejudo is a tough task for any fighter to take on two weeks’ notice, however, there’s more at play here than the fans think. Cruz has the ability to use his height and reach against shorter fighters like Joseph Benavidez or Demetrious Johnson to keep himself out of danger.

Both common opponents of Cejudo, Henry always choose to engage moving and try to back fighters into the cage. Which many haven’t bee able to do to Cruz. Cody Garbradt was able to significantly damage and knockdown Cruz. But usually by countering when Cruz threw or by not biting the feints and throwing his own offense.

Power advantage would favor Cejudo and because of this short notice fight cardio may also be in his favor. For Cruz to win he needs to fight the perfect fight all five rounds and not slow down. A plan that might not be possible to implement given the circumstances.

For Cejudo he has to take the fight to Cruz and not give him space, space is not your friend against Dominick Cruz.

A Cinderella Story or a Crushing Defeat?

It’s safe to say that if Dominick Cruz can come back to win the bantamweight title for the third time after the incredible number of life and career-changing injuries he’s sustained it would be quite frankly the best story of the year.

Having missed most of his initial UFC title reign due to injury then being forced to vacate altogether, after reclaiming the gold we all thought Cruz would be there a long time. Sadly this was not the case. A massive component of this fight is simply can Dominick’s body keeps up with his incredible fight IQ.

Two tears in one knee, a tear in the other knee. Shoulder injuries, broken hands the list of injuries is quite possibly the most grueling thing to read. Most athletes would have quit but Dom has shown metal strength which is unheard of. The question now is can he do it ??

Many fans believe Dominick will win the fight. However, there is so much at play here that the more you look at it the less likely it seems. Two weeks to cut to bantamweight and get in fight shape is not a lot. Then there’s the fight itself.

Should Dominick Cruz win this fight it would be the biggest achievement in his career. And a perfect note to finish his career on. I think I can speak for every MMA fan when I say we’d love to see it.


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