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Dominick Cruz's lengthy absence due to injury is a serious issue for the bantamweight division.
Bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz is already 18 months separated from his last fight, and will almost certainly be two full years removed from beating Demetrious Johnson on UFC on Versus 6. Still, you can't count out “The Dominator.”
Cruz has beaten just about every fighter to have even a little bit of success under Zuffa at bantamweight over the last few years. This includes Johnson, Ian McCall, Joseph Benavidez, Scott Jorgensen, Brian Bowles and Urijah Faber.
Because of the UFC's staunch refusal to groom new bantamweight talent or sign free agents, very few fighters have surfaced to take the place of the guys on that list who have dropped to flyweight, leaving Cruz as, basically, the last man standing (with the exception, of course, of Barao and Faber).
If the UFC actually made a legitimate effort to sign hotshot bantamweight free agents Tyson Nam or Bibiano Fernandes, this whole division would look different. Alas, though, Cruz is a shark in a very small, shallow pond. Assuming, of course, he comes back from that knee injury close to how we saw him when he left.
When he returns, look for him to immediately be pitted against the interim bantamweight champion (as stated, Barao will face off with Eddie Wineland at UFC 161).