Article by Kevin Haggerty
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz is expected to face number one contender Urijah Faber at UFC 148 in Las Vegas, Nevada, on July 7, 2012, in a rubber match that will pit the coaches from The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 15 up against each other for a third -- and likely final -- time.
The 135-pound bout will hopefully bring some closure to the heated rivalry that dates all the way back to March 24, 2007, when the "California Kid" defeated "The Dominator" at World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) 26 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
It was the only loss of Cruz's bright mixed martial arts (MMA) career. And one that he eventually avenged when he won a five-round decision victory over Faber at UFC 132 on July 2, 2011, and an exciting back-and-forth battle.
In a recent interview with HDNet's "Inside MMA," Cruz talked about the upcoming season of TUF and how he plans on approaching being one of the coaches for the upcoming FX reality television series:
"You know, it's gonna be intense. This format has never been done, so it's a new thing for everybody; including the guys on the show. When the coaching's going on, it's gonna be about the guys, you know? Making sure that their minds stay right. You can't overwork them during the week because they could be fighting every single week. There's a mental thing where they're going 13 weeks, trapped in a house with a bunch of dudes. You see the guys in the past shows, they were there half the time and they went nuts. So, imagine what 13 weeks is gonna be like. So it's about keeping the guys in check, keeping them focused, not letting their minds wander too much while they're stuck in there and keeping them on point."
Just wait till you hear what he has to say about Faber:
"At the end of the show, I get to fight Faber and you know, I'll always fight him better than he'll fight me. As much as he wants to talk about being the more dangerous fighter, this and that -- the dude was on his heels the entire fight. He didn't wanna come forward. He was countering the whole time, looking to counter, because he didn't know when I was gonna come or go. So, there's a style that he doesn't understand, the way that I fight him, that he chooses to say negative things about it, because he can't understand it. What you can't understand, you choose to talk bad about. He's not gonna beat me. He doesn't know how. I'm gonna go in there and have my way with him, just like I did in the last fight. Keep the pace high, put him on his butt and beat him down."
Ultimately, Cruz believes he is the superior fighter in every way. He is confident that Faber won't beat him, because, according to Cruz, he can't beat him in any aspect of the fight game:
"He can't. He can't keep me there even if he does get me down. The one time he did get a takedown on me, in the last fight, he got reversed and ended up on his back. I'm gonna win the scrambles on him, even if he does try to take me down. And, you know, on the feet, I own the range. He can't control the range because I'm taller than him and I have the reach advantage. I use my angles and footwork to keep him offset the whole time. That's the key in those fights. He had a good gameplan in trying to wait, wait, wait and counter, but the fact that he doesn't know when I'm coming and going and he can't control the range, that gives me the edge in striking as well."
Cruz may not like Faber. He may not even believe he's capable of beating him. But, he does give him some credit for having a smart gameplan in their last appearance in the cage. He just doesn't believe it will be enough to get the win:
"I think that his gameplan, in general, is a pretty good one, in that (he says), 'I'm not gonna chase him.' The times that people have tried to be extremely forceful and offensive on me and had that 'bully' tactic, I usually pick guys apart better that way. So, the fact that he would kinda sit and he waited and tried to pick his shots smart was probably the one thing that was intelligent about him, but in that case, I was able to throw two-to-one on him. That's gonna be the key is just output and pace and takedowns and landing the bigger shots. Getting the finish.
The finish. A result that Cruz has not accomplished in more than four years, excluding the injury to Brian Bowles in their fight way back in 2010.
That sounds refreshing. And lofty.