This weekend sees the highly anticipated UFC bantamweight title collision between Dominick Cruz (20-1) and world champion T.J. Dillashaw (12-2). Many anticipate this bout as being among the most technical blend of styles to ever meet inside the Octagon. The talk has been much centred around the evolution of each fighter’s world class striking with “footwork” having become the buzzword surrounding the event.
In Dominick “The Dominator” Cruz, 30, we have the former WEC turned UFC champion who never lost his crown. Riddled by injuries he was forced to vacate it, but was nevertheless the 135lb division’s godfather of footwork. His supreme technique put an exclamation mark to his fundamentals, providing masterful angles and balance that propelled his effectiveness beyond all bantamweight counterparts. It was an ACL tear in 2012 that seemingly opened the floodgate for back-to-back setbacks.
Having escaped early retirement, Cruz’s long awaited return was met with jubilation among the MMA world, which was keen to witness his well deserved return last September. It was unclear as to what could be expected. However, Cruz surfaced at UFC 178 and provided one of the most fearsome performances of his career with a swift first round knockout to end the five-fight win streak of Takeya Mizugaki.
Even more shockingly, the pound-for-pound standout and successor to Cruz’s crown, Renan Barão, was then devastatingly dethroned by the now champion T.J. Dillashaw, prior to Cruz’s return. Dillashaw knocked out the Brazillian in the third round of their May 24 contest at UFC 173, and posted a successful defence over replacement challenger, Joe Soto, before again besting Barão in the much anticipated rematch via TKO. Dillashaw had finally shaken off his underdog status and solidified himself as the division’s undoubted champion. It seemed as if Dillashaw’s highly developed ability had been spawned overnight with his relentless attacking style and constant movement that left his opponents bemused.
Both Cruz and Dillashaw have come from wrestling backgrounds to become incredibly well rounded. However, as each man has evolved, his grappling assault has become more reserved in favour of intelligent striking. Many fans see Dillashaw as continuing what Cruz first started, but the former champion argues that the technical gap between them is still worlds apart. Dillashaw, on the other hand, states that his aggression and power will make the greater difference.
When observing the statistical breakdown of both Cruz and Dillashaw via Sherdog.com, their differences become clearer. Dillashaw’s aggression is apparent with a greater volume of strikes resulting in more significant strikes landed and knockdowns, in contrast to Cruz who throws more sparingly and with similar accuracy. Each fighter displays a high degree of striking accuracy to the body and legs of opponents. The gradual and patient effectiveness of this of course lends itself to their success in later rounds with Cruz having often claimed dominant unanimous decisions prior to his injury, while Dillashaw has secured late stoppages in his last three bouts.
Dillashaw’s aggressiveness has opened him up to receiving a higher volume of significant strikes in contrast to Cruz who shows impressive striking defence, leading to his claim of being ‘the least hit UFC fighter’.
‘UFC Fight Night 81: Dillashaw vs. Cruz’ takes place on January 17 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.
Visit Sherdog.com for their full statistical breakdown.Written by IMMAF.org lead writer and website manager, Jorden Curran]]>