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Dominick Cruz has a good resume, make no mistake. One problem: It hasn't been updated in almost two years.
"The Dominator" has been sidelined for some time due to knee issues. Though a return seems to be in sight, no one is quite sure when he will be back to defend his title.
And the division is waiting.
During his time in the WEC, Cruz was 3-0 in championship fights, earning victories over Scott Jorgensen, Joseph Benavidez and Brian Bowles. When the WEC folded, he was brought over to the UFC as the first-ever bantamweight champion.
He went 2-0 in his new home, defeating Demetrious Johnson and Urijah Faber, but he's been absent since then.
In his place, Renan Barao serves as the interim champion as he patiently awaits Cruz's return. But he's not the only one waiting in the wings. Michael McDonald, Urijah Faber, Eddie Wineland and a handful of others have only improved since Cruz's time away from the cage, leading to a growing list of contenders.
And a fight against Barao would be the biggest test of Cruz's career.
Another troubling aspect of Cruz's resume is this: Two of his four title defenses have come against guys now fighting at flyweight (Johnson and Benavidez).
Obviously, those matchups weren't as lopsided as, say, Jon Jones vs. Vitor Belfort, or Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen, considering Belfort and Sonnen went from 185 pounds to 205 pounds. But Benavidez and Johnson are definitely more competitive at flyweight, where they aren't so undersized.
But what about Cruz's other victories?
In his three other victories in title fights, Cruz topped the aforementioned Faber, Scott Jorgensen and Brian Bowles. The Faber win is a quality one, as "The California Kid" has long been competitive at the elite level of whatever division he wants to fight in.
But the wins over Bowles and Jorgensen were not nearly as significant. The former is on a two-fight losing streak and can't stay healthy. The latter is 1-3 in his last four fights, sending him out of contention.
In order for Cruz to prove he is the top bantamweight, he's going to need to get healthy...and quickly. Barao has fought and defeated tougher competition and, for my money, is the top 135-pound fighter on the planet.
More on that on the next slide.