Is UFC's Dominick Cruz a Legitimate Champion?

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Is UFC's Dominick Cruz a Legitimate Champion?
Dominick Cruz. A fighting champion? (mmanews.com)

Current UFC bantamweight champion, Dominick Cruz, continues to mend from the reconstructive surgery he had in July for a torn ACL.

Filling the void as interim bantamweight champion is Renan Barao with his victory over Urijah Faber at UFC 149.

A clash of bantamweight-title holders will occur at some point in the future to declare the true king of the ultra-competitive 135-pound bantamweight division.

It is months away before a matchup between Cruz and Barao should even be discussed. In the meantime, however, why not kick a man when he’s down. Is that not the American way? Admittedly so, this article is definitely ill-timed considering Cruz’s injury. Undeniably so, this article will create a heated debate.

In the end, however, debate forces one to think. And exploring one’s position and viewpoint is the backbone of this great nation.

It is obvious from the title and introduction that this writer is not a fan of Dominick Cruz.

I do not hide the fact that I feel he is a subpar fighter who lacks the ability to be a dominant champion within the famed Octagon. However, I am also not arrogant or stubborn enough to believe that Dominick Cruz is unworthy of his fighting credentials.

Currently, Cruz possesses a very impressive 19-1 mixed martial arts record as well as a seventh-place ranking in Sherdog’s list of the top-10 best pound-for-pound fighters.

This form is superior boxing skills? Flinging punches. (espn.go.com)

Defeating the likes of Urijah Faber, Demetrious Johnson, Ian McCall and a who’s who of top competitors, Cruz has defended his title successfully to date.

So what is my issue with “The Dominator?”

At UFC on FOX 4, Clay Guida put on a lackluster performance in a split-decision loss to Gray Maynard. Rather than engaging in what was forecasted as a slobber-knocker, Guida danced around the Octagon and avoided the heavy right hand of “The Bully.”

Criticized by Dana White, the UFC President commented on Guida’s gameplan by saying, "Some goof put in his head that running around in circles might win him the fight, and they were dead wrong."

Wait one second, was not the strategy employed by Guida against Maynard the same tactical maneuvering that Cruz utilizes against all his opponents? Why was Guida’s performance any different than the vast majority of Cruz’s fights?

Both possess excellent cardiovascular conditioning and utilize their footwork and head movement to execute their strikes while limiting the damage received.

Guida and Cruz move in and out of range with constant motion for the duration of their battles.

Yet, experts bashed Clay Guida for his Dancing With the Stars rendition and praise "The Dominator” for possessing excellent footwork and better boxing skills, as he quickly and effectively changes angles and planes to minimize damage. Since he utilizes the same fight strategy, why is Guida the bad guy and Cruz viewed as a top pound-for-pound title holder?

Joseph Benavidez getting in the face of the champ (mmavalor.com)

And, what damage does Dominick Cruz inflict?

Of Cruz’s 19 victories, the champ possesses six KO/TKO victories. With that said, however, “The Dominator” has not finished an opponent inside the UFC due to strikes.

Outside of a doctor’s stoppage due to a broken hand by Brian Bowles at WEC 47, this featherweight champion has not convincingly defeated a WEC competitor either. Of Dominick Cruz’s last nine fights, all have come by decision except for the aforementioned stoppage of Bowles by a broken hand at WEC 47, and he has not finished an opponent during regulation since his KO victory of Kenneth Aimes at Total Combat 27 in March of 2008.

Georges St-Pierre was once ridiculed for his inability fight without the bout going to a decision.

Yet GSP has earned eight KO/TKO victories, including knockout victories over welterweight and UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes and the always tough and durable Sean Sherk. Cruz’s KO stoppage came against a fighter whom could be sitting right next to me and I would not know who he was.

Not a single dominant victory by strikes at the sport’s highest levels, yet people are still willing to call the self-proclaimed “The Dominator” a pound-for-pound contender and a fighting champion?

Let me provide a biased, “I am not at all impressed by Dominick Cruz” standpoint.

Urijah Faber blasting the champ (mmanews.com)

Cruz is a tremendously gifted cardiovascular machine that has developed mediocre mixed martial arts talent and has essentially duped experts, fans and the UFC brass into believing that his style of mixed martial arts is actually fighting.

The reality, however, is that Cruz does not possess lethal strikes. Outside of his excellent footwork (and I’ll give him that much), he is not a superior boxer. He does not fire counters with the force and power of Renan Barao. He is not as creative as Urijah Faber. And this champion is definitely not as dominant as he believes he is and the media portrays him to be.

Is Dominick Cruz a pound-for-pound contender? Absolutely not. Is Dominick Cruz a superior mixed martial artist? Absolutely not.

And now to bring this story full-circle, is Dominick Cruz a fighting champion? Absolutely not.

Does Dominick Cruz possess a superior cardiorespiratory system that has allowed him to invent a fighting style in which he is praised yet others are chastised? Resoundingly, YES!

One day Dominick Cruz will be forced to actually fight in his matchups and the truth of his legend will be revealed. That day will soon come when he takes on the ultra-elusive, yet tremendously powerful striker Renan Barao. 

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