Dominick Cruz: A Legacy Fight At UFC 249
By Ben Jessop
It’s rare we come across fights that literally have the opportunity to cement someone as the greatest to ever do it.
The G.O.A.T is a phrase that’s thrown around a lot, whether you believe Jon Jones, GSP, Mighty Mouse, Khabib or Silva – there is, in my mind, no debate about who holds that crown for the bantamweight division.
Dominick Cruz faces Henry Cejudo at UFC 249 this weekend and its arguably the most important fight of his life. A win on the night to regain the UFC gold, cements Cruz’s legacy as the greatest bantamweight of all time.
We have to rewind to understand how Cruz now has this mammoth opportunity in front of him, have a look at his successes and failures and see how on earth a boy growing up in San Diego becomes the greatest of all time.
Cruz was born 9th March 1985 in San Deigo, California and grew up with his single mother, grandmother and his one brother in a trailer park in Tucson for much of his childhood.
It was when Cruz began attending Flowing Wells High School that he began competing in amateur wrestling, and the obsession, passion and love for combat sports began.
But as with most people, the idea of making a career from combat sports seemed a million miles away so Cruz began working as a customer service rep at Lowe’s and was training to become a firefighter at the same time.
Nevertheless, Cruz continued to train in combat sports maintaining his wrestling as his base skillset but also combined fast striking with an unpredictable style, utilising close and odd angles to get the better of his opponents.
It didn’t take Cruz long to realise he had a special skill at fighting, and soon began fighting as an amateur and amassed a record of 9-0 before joining Rage in The Cage as a professional fighter in 2005.
Based on Cruz’s impeccable amateur record, and three fights in Total Combat, Cruz entered WEC as a title challenger against Urijah Faber at featherweight and so came the first loss of his career after being submitted a minute and a half into the first round.
Cruz then had a year-long break, and decided to fight again once more in Total Combat, defeating Kenneth Aimes before heading back into WEC to revenge his first loss.
He fought Charlie Valencia 1st June 2008 and then from there on in, Cruz remained dominant in WEC. Defeating Ian McCall, Joseph Benavidez and then he fought Brian Bowles for the WEC bantamweight championship and finally had the gold wrapped around his waist. He defended his title against Joseph Benavides and Scott Jorgensen before that call he’d been waiting for came through.
Cruz was called up by the UFC and began his illustrious career, starting off against Urijah Faber 7th February 2011. The time had come for Cruz, now in the organisation with the highest talent pool, along with the best rewards, Cruz had a chance the revenge his only loss and get his career off to a steaming start.
Despite a hard fought fight, Cruz came out on top and became the UFC bantamweight champion, the highest accolade he could achieve. Cruz was at the top of the mountain and had a whole roster of bantamweights to defeat.
He defended his title successfully against Demetrious Johnson, whom some claim to be the pound for pound greatest of all time.
But Cruz didn’t have that luck this time round, plagued with injury the UFC had no choice but to cancel to planned bouts, one against Urijah Faber for the trilogy fight and one against Renan Barao.
It took three years for Cruz to be able to step back into the octagon, and in his time out, the UFC had stripped him of the bantamweight title and it was now firmly in the grips of TJ Dillashaw.
On the edge of one of the UFC’s greatest ever comebacks, Cruz faced off against Takeya Mizugaki 27th September 2014 and won via KO in the first round. Cruz was back with a bang, the comeback was on and Cruz was hungry for the gold once more.
Cruz’s wish was granted, as he faced down TJ Dillashaw for the bantamweight championship 17th January 2016. After five rounds of hard combat, the fight went to the judges’ scorecards and Cruz came out on top, by the skin of his teeth via split decision.
The comeback was complete, the UFC and fans alike could not believe that Cruz had come back from a three-year layoff to successfully regain his title.
In some fans minds, this already set Cruz as the greatest bantamweight of all time, but Cruz wasn’t finished yet, that trilogy fight with Urijah Faber was looming and on 6th June 2016 the two faced off for the third time and yet again, Cruz came out on time winning via unanimous decision.
But from the dizzy heights of UFC gold and success, Cruz would soon come crashing back down and in December of 2016 Cruz looked to defend his title once more against Cody Garbrandt.
Another fight that went to decision for Cruz, but unfortunately for him, Cody came out on top winning via unanimous decision. We’ve not seen Cruz in the octagon since, having gained and lost UFC gold twice, he needed to take time off to heal his reoccurring injuries and begin finding new careers path,
Cruz has become one of the most knowledgeable and staple commentators that the UFC has. Despite two cancelled bouts, one against Jimmie Rivera in 2017, and one against John Linekar in 2019, we finally get to see Cruz back in the octagon this weekend at UFC249 where he will face off against the seemingly unbeatable Henry Cejudo to once again regain UFC gold.
Is it really possible for someone to come back to get his championship belt three times over nine years? That answer will come at UFC249 but if anyone can do, Dominick Cruz has proven he’s the man to.
Once again, Cruz finds himself at the brink of one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history, and should he win and have that belt wrapped around his waist, his legacy as the greatest bantamweight to ever fight is set in stone, concrete and secure.
Legacy fights are rare, but that is exactly what we have on our hands this weekend.