Mixed Martial Arts has been called the savage science. If that is indeed true, on a hilltop on the West Coast, in a creepy, dark mansion known as Alliance MMA, there is a mad scientist by the name of Eric Del Fierro, and he has created a monster.
That monster is Dominick Cruz.
That monster is one of the top 10 pound-for-pound athletes competing in the savage science. He has the most complicated footwork in the game, the pace of a humming bird and the aggression of a honey badger.
Dominick Cruz is 18-1 and shows zero signs of slowing at any point in the near future. Be that as it may, the obstacles of a champion are many, and even with all the training, ability and potential in the world, the fall of a champion is one determined challenger away.
So, sure, Dominick Cruz may be a great champion who thrills crowds with a thumbprint approach to the game. But be that as it may, there is one man on the planet who sees 25 minutes inside the Octagon with Cruz as the opportunity of a lifetime.
Demetrious Johnson sees this as his moment to shine and steal that glory, steal that momentum (which Cruz has made his own) and become the next great thing in the sport of MMA.
Cruz recognizes this and has spent that last few months torturing himself in the depths of that creepy mansion mentioned above, being broken down and rebuilt by that mad scientist, Del Fierro.
And he now has told Todd Jackson of The Truth Hurts at Hurtsbad MMA that he feels more than prepared to meet the challenge that is coming in the man they call "Mighty Mouse."
Johnson carries many tools into the cage with him on fight night. He did not become the No. 1 contender on accident. One of his biggest strengths other than a high-octane, warlike approach is the speed at which he delivers his fight to an opponent.
Cruz talked first about the speed of Johnson. "Speed is definitely a weapon. He is quick. He's up there with Benavidez and Faber, and I think those are some of the fastest guys in my division. I did just fine with them."
Cruz feels he has the antidote to speed, and has proved that he can negate it on more than one occasion as mentioned before. "A bigger weapon than speed is someone that knows how to use their range. Because of the fact that I know how to use my range, it's going to give him a lot of problems."
Cruz confidently added, "It doesn't matter how quick he is, because I'm quick too and range in my opinion is a bigger weapon than speed. Because if he starts showing his shots from too far out, telegraphing his shots, it's not going to matter how quick they are because I'm going to see them from a mile away."
Always a master game planner, it appears Cruz and Del Fierro have developed their formula. "That's the key is just keeping the fight where I want it range wise, and making him uncomfortable throughout the entire fight. That is exactly what I plan on doing."
While identifying threats is one thing, Cruz sees the big picture with Johnson and realizes he poses much more than a speed threat. Cruz reflected on himself when speaking of his opponent and offered an insightful perspective on other challenges he sees.
He told The Truth Hurts, "I think that some of his biggest weapons are the weapons that people give him. The reason why I say that is because I used a lot of the things he has used to light a fire under his butt, coming up in this sport, and working my way up the ladder, and that is being an underdog."
The champ went on to explain, "He has got a lot of heart, he knows how to fight, he's hungry, he never gets tired, and he uses the fact that people don't think that he can win to light a fire under his butt and prove everybody wrong."
He knows how dangerous those traits can be firsthand. "That's exactly what I did, and those are some of the biggest threats that he's got. On top of that, he's quick, he has a good technique, and he has got a pretty aggressive pace."
Once again, the formula is in place and the calculations have been made. "The idea is to use that against him. If he doesn't set things up I have to make him pay for it. A lot of the things he does, he forces things because he's trying to keep a high pace. The key is to keep the fight where I want it range wise, keep him on his toes, and keep him uncomfortable."
While Cruz may be a king in the sport at the highest levels of competition, he respects his opponent and it shows in his preparation leading up to this fight. No stone has been left unturned.
He talked about his camp as well.
Just like everybody else, there are threats in every fight I go into. But I take those thoughts into consideration throughout my entire camp. I think about them every night when I go to bed, I think about them every morning when I wake up to train. I train for every strength that my opponent has to make sure that I'm ready for it and I have seen everything they are going to throw at me.
Spoken like a true champion, Cruz enters fight night with a sense of calm that follows the storm that has been his training camp. He knows he has done everything he can to give himself the best edge he can carry this Saturday in Washington D.C.
"I'm pretty confident in the game plan that I have set, and in the skill set that I carry into the cage. I'm excited to fight. Now I'm at the point where it's all mental preparation at this point and weight management. And now I get to just get in there and have fun, because the camp was hell."
Now it is time to unleash that hell inside the cage.
This article originally featured at Hurtsbad MMA.