Aidan’s Classic Fights: Dominick Cruz v Cody Garbrandt
By Aidan O’Connor
This week on ‘classic fights’ we look back on one of my all-time favourite fights. When I think of standout performances my mind straight away focuses on this one.
Dominick Cruz, one of the sport’s greatest fighters coming in against a Team Alpha Male superstar in the making. This fight had it all. From Cruz’s unorthodox stances and movements to the sheer speed of the punches and kicks Garbrandt had in his arsenal.
Whenever I speak to my friends about the UFC who perhaps don’t watch it or are only just getting into it, I tell them to watch this fight.
In the past, Cruz had come up against countless Team Alpha Male fighters and suffered his first and only loss (to this point) to Urijah Faber in 2007 under the promotion WEC.
However, since then he had beaten Faber twice as well as taking out Benavidez twice and even more notoriously beating TJ Dillashaw for the bantamweight championship. It was almost a reoccurring theme that Team Alpha Male would try to take out Dominick but would fall at the last hurdle.
In steps Cody, A fighter coming fresh out of Team Alpha Male on a 10-fight win streak, most of which coming by way of KO/TKO with some of the fastest hands the division has ever seen. The build-up to this fight was exactly how many predicted. No filter trash talking between the two, Dominick had seen this all before but the confidence that Cody had was something else.
Cody Grabrandt came in as a huge underdog for this fight but that would prove not to matter one single bit as the fight began. Even as the referee brought the two to the centre of the octagon the two were still exchanging unpleasantries. This was going to be a war.
Round one begins and Dominick Cruz, with his awkward fighting style, takes the first steps forwards, landing a couple of hooks to Cody whilst immediately switching stances, keeping Cody on his toes. Then the showboating begins, Garbrandt dodging Cruz strikers bobbing and weaving and then begins to dance in the ring. The bookies may have had Cody as an underdog, but one thing was for certain, he did not have an underdog mentality.
Cody landed the majority of strikes in his burst that he would commit to. The sheer speed of these bursts meant that Dominick did not have enough time or space to evade the incoming strikes. As the round reaches the 3-minute mark it was evident that this was not the fighter that Cruz was expecting, as the dancing and trash talk continued in the octagon. As the round entered the final minute, Cruz began to land significant strikes but was just met with taunts from Cody as he sticks his tongue out and does an inward flex.
Even the commentators were stunned at what they were witnessing.
Round 2 begins and it starts off a little slower in the first minute or so, Dominick being the one chasing Cody down and eating some shots in the process. The two then clipped each other with big shots almost simultaneously that caused them to stumble just a little.
The difference we were seeing here was Cruz was throwing long punches over the top, which were almost telegraphed in a way, if they land then that could be all she wrote but Cody’s reflexes were proving an issue for Dom as we were not landing enough whereas Cody’s fighting style was sharp and short punches in bunches, if he timed them right he would have an element of surprise and slickness. Round 2 ended as a very even round, Cruz landed a few leg kicks and Cody had great counter punches.
Round 3 begins as the pair begin to exchange once again in an explosive manner. Cody tagging Cruz multiple times in the opening seconds as Dominick looks at his coaches as if to say, “What was that?” as blood begins to pour from just above his left eye. It was evident that Cruz was beginning to fade as he was being caught with numerous shots whilst Cody’s movement meant that he was avoiding all that was coming towards him.
Cruz throws a right hook as Cody swerves underneath his reach and begins to taunt him by dancing once again. Every time the fight went anywhere near the cage Cody would point to the centre, indicating a stand and bang mentality. Coming into the last 2 minutes of the round Cody catches Dominick with a counter hook and followed up with a knee which dropped Cruz momentarily. Cody once again used his speed to avoid attacks from Cruz whilst dancing. This was clearly getting into the head of the bantamweight champion.
Round 4 and the fighters were still talking to each other before the round had even begun. This was the further round that Cody had fought in his career. There were questions about how he would last in the championship rounds, but he soon put that to bed when he began to exchange once again, not allowing a moment to breathe as he bursts in with his combinations.
This round would prove to be the greatest round in Cody’s career thus far. After only a minute the challenger knocks the champion down with a beautifully timed right counter hook and instead of pouncing on top to finish the fight, smiles and points his finger down at Cruz. Dominick somehow recovers quickly and gets back to his feet whilst trying to recoup, landing a couple of strikes of his own.
The confidence at this point is just oozing its way out of Garbrandt as he dodges a leg kick and shakes his head whilst putting his hands on his hips. He also dodged and weaved once again whilst dancing and eventually throwing some sort of arm dance move. This got the crowds attention as they went crazy. The champion was being embarrassed in there and mentally, the fight looked to of already been won.
Near the end of the round, Cody lands another beautifully timed hook which dropped Dominick once again, whilst standing with his hands on his head. Then a third time, this round was being dominated by the underdog. Nobody saw this coming. Cody caught a kick thrown by Cruz and knocked him to the ground once again. Nobody has ever treated Cruz the way he was treated in this round. 4 knockdowns and the taunting looked to be getting the better of him, he looked like he was lucky to survive the round.
The 5th and final round. At this point, Cruz was at least 3 rounds down in many peoples minds and needed to get a finish to have any chance of keeping hold of the belt. For most of the final round, Cruz looked to of found his second wind as he landed a large volume of punches and kicks, much more so than the previous. This, however, did not stop Cody from his flurries of punches and mocking the champion by lying on the floor almost in a press-up position.
For the sheer amount of punches landed Cruz took this round for me, Cody avoided a lot with his speed, but Cruz looked the better of the two in this round.
The fight was over, these two warriors gave their all in that octagon but there was only ever going to be one winner. Cody Garbrandt won by unanimous decision to become the bantamweight champion.
In his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, he called out his foe TJ Dillashaw which would set up his next two fights for the belt.