After five thrilling rounds in what many are calling the fight of the mid-year against Urijah Faber, UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz will defend his title for a second time in 2011.
While Cruz knows Johnson is now the task at hand, the champion reflects on his impressive victory over former WEC Featherweight Champion Urijah Faber earlier this month at UFC 132.
"It feels good," Cruz recently told BleacherReport.com. "I got to take it easy for my couple days or whatever, reflect on the fight, reflect on the situation, the things that took place, the things that I accomplished, and allow myself to enjoy it for a little while. Just so I could have some fun and that’s what I did. I learned a lot from that fight and I’m just living life."
As Cruz prepares to face "Mighty Mouse," he’ll take the lessons learned in his latest title defense into training camp, which will take place at Alliance MMA in Chula Vista, Ca.
"What I learned from the fight with Faber was just what I had in me," Cruz said. "In my opinion, there was some small mistakes that I made in that fight that allowed Faber to land a couple punches that he shouldn’t of landed if I wasn’t trying to be so aggressive and offensive. There’s a little bit of emotion brought into that fight, just because there was so much to it, there were so many things that I was trying to accomplish with one win in that fight. On top of that, there was a lot of unfinished business between me and him, so that allowed me to go in there a little more aggressive than I do at times and I took a little bit more punches.
"But, the main thing I learned was just that I am the best and it was just more to prove something to myself. I knew it and I knew I had the skills to do it, but going in and doing it is different, so it was a big experience fight. I learned a lot and that’s what I’m going to take into this fight, is a lot more experience."
Cruz’s experience, along with his trademark style and impressive nine-fight win streak, has placed him among the sport's pound-for-pound elite.
As for Johnson, he’s been nothing short of impressive since transitioning over from the WEC. "Mighty Mouse" utilized speed and quickness to derail Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto and Miguel Torres.
That being said, Cruz has nothing but respect for Johnson and the skill-set he’ll bring to the Verizon Center.
"He’s top-notch," Cruz said. "He’s beaten a lot of guys in the division. He deserves everything he’s been given, he’s worked hard for it, I have nothing but respect for the guy. Mighty Mouse’s biggest strengths are one, his speed, and two, his wrestling transitions. Like you said, he transitions very well from striking to wrestling, he kind of pieces things together, and also he is good everywhere, he’s very well rounded.
"But, there’s a lot of things that I do really well in all of my fights that can definitely cause a lot of problems for him and make it a very tough fight for him stylistically."
Part of the puzzle that Johnson will need to solve is Cruz’s size advantage, and the champion believes there is indeed a distinction in this fight.
"There is kind of a difference in this fight, because I have to train my body different," Cruz said. "Every fight I come out looking different because every person that I fight is a different opponent. So, combinations change, sequences change, my body chemistry changes, the way I build my body up to the fight changes and, on top of that, I took this fight with such a quick turnaround that I haven’t really had the chance to pack on a whole bunch size like I generally like to in between and let my body heel and do the things it wants to, to prepare for another fight. So, since I’m going straight into this, I’m actually going into this fight a little lighter, which technically that should be better for me because of Mighty Mouse’s speed. This is going to be a speed fight and I already carry the size and power advantage in my opinion, I know he’s not going to overpower me in there.
"I’m not saying he’s weak, but I’m not worried about the overpowering of his game. The things I have to watch out for are speed and quickness and heart—the kid’s got a lot of heart too. He deserves what he’s been given and I’m excited to fight a new matchup and a new style and a new puzzle to be solved. Really, everything just lines up nicely for me to go into this camp and be ready for another fight."
Cruz and Alliance MMA head coach Eric Del Fierro have built something special over the years and now head into their 10th fight together.
Needless to say, the relatively quick turnaround isn’t fazing the champion and his team.
"The breaks in the past were actually because I had a lot of injuries I was trying to heal up, my hands were tore up, and really the camps were tough," Cruz said. "This was one of hardest camps I’ve had, before Faber, it was a long one, it was a grinding one. There’s still some things on my body that are sore, not from the fight, but from the camp. The fight you get over it quick, but the camp, it takes your body a good couple weeks for your body to recover from the camps I have here. I’m feeling good though, and we’re going to ease into it and my coaches are very good about keeping me where I need to be during fight camp, prior to fight camp, and I had about a total of like six days off before I had my first practice. I’ve trained this entire week and I trained a little bit last week, so I’m feeling great. A little sore here and there, but I haven’t been overdoing it.
"I’m excited, the UFC called me, they needed to fill out a slot, while everybody else goes in to work every day, I go in and fight. Without fighting, the truth is I don’t really have much else going on, so why not? I want to be considered one of the best ever and that’s the plan."
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