Photo via UFC.com / Getty Images
UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz has been out of the game for two years due to a series of knee surgeries. In the meantime, Renan Barao has swooped in to pick up the interim title, defending it twice this year.
Cruz is in a do or die situation now, as UFC president Dana White has stated that if he can’t return in early 2014, his championship belt might be taken away. If he recovers in time though, White is looking to set up a unification title fight as soon as possible.
In a recent interview, Cruz extended some praise towards the interim champ, complimenting Barao on his dynamic stand up game.
“I’m a mixed martial artist. I can fight with him anywhere,” he said on the UFC 165 Post Show on Fox Sports 2. “I look at it as a chess match, literally. Renan Barao plays chess when he’s in there. I play chess when I’m there. The most impressive part about Barao is the way that he mixes things up.
“He’s constantly shooting, kneeing up the middle, left hook, straight right hand and spinning back kicks. My favorite thing that he does is he’ll throw the right hand and he’ll throw the left hook just to see you react. If he keeps landing the right hand than you don’t want to circle into the power of the right hand. So what does he do? When you go to the weak side he throws a spinning back kick. So now you have two power shots that he can land going right or left if you’re trying to defend against Renan Barao’s offense.”
Cruz isn’t worried though, and believes that despite the time off, he’s still the best in the 135 pound division.
“Barao mixes it up better than anybody in the division,” Cruz said. “That’s what I’m looking forward to fighting. I’m looking forward fighting a guy that mixes things up from head to toe, whether it be wrestling, jiu-jitsu, kickboxing, boxing. I’m ready for that. I will be ready for that, and I cannot wait. I think that I can challenge that. I know that I can beat him. I know that I have the tools to challenge him and really trick him out in a lot of different ways with the things that I do in a fight.”
Cruz has not yet been cleared to return to full training again, but expects to have the green light in the next few weeks.
“I will be cleared, and I will fight, and when I fight I will be fighting Renan Barao,” he concluded.