Welcome back Dominick Cruz – Preview of UFC Fight Night 81

By Owen Phillips     12/1/16

UFC Fight Night 81

Dominick Cruz (right), T.J. Dillashaw (left) and UFC matchmaker Joe Silva (middle). Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog

Dominick Cruz never lost a fight to lose his title as bantamweight champion. His persistent injuries forced the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) to take the belt from him and move on with the division. Renan Barao filled in for a period of time and now T.J. Dillashaw has made the title his own. A salivating matchup is upon us now with Dillashaw meeting Cruz at UFC Fight Night 81 for the bantamweight championship this Monday (Australian time).

Dillashaw has looked extremely impressive, twice dispatching Barao to stamp his authority on the title. Ever since Duane Ludwig started working with Dillashaw, he has imparted his own style of kickboxing on Dillashaw, which has taken him up to the next level of performance. Dillashaw implements great footwork and creates angles to deliver sharp combinations and take minimal damage.

Cruz uses a high energy style that employs constant movement. Luke Thomas from MMA Fighting conducted an exclusive interview with Dominick Cruz in 2014 and revealed everything about his footwork. His movement is so complex he uses six to ten different footwork patterns during a fight and will change patterns depending on his opponent’s movement. He has drilled these patterns until they are perfected for fight day. Cruz has borrowed footwork from boxers Muhammad Ali and Willie Pep, and American football running backs and defensive backs. The unnatural sideways movements are what Cruz has mastered, to complement the natural forwards and backwards movements. Hitting and not getting hit is the way he has been so successful in mixed martial arts (MMA). He has fantastic cardio to maintain his style for the whole fight. A testament to his style is the fact that Dillashaw is now using some of his movement.

In the co-main event tough-as-nails Eddie Alvarez goes up against unpredictable Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis. Alvarez gained his first UFC win in his last start against Gilbert Melendez and Pettis is coming off a fight where he was dismantled by Rafael Dos Anjos to lose the lightweight title. It was a shocking loss for ‘Showtime’ and he will want to create more of the highlights the fans are used to. Alvarez is a former Bellator Fighting Championship lightweight title holder who uses an in-your-face style and implements all facets of MMA to be comfortable wherever the fight goes.

A crowd-pleasing heavyweight clash between Travis Browne and Matt Mitrione is also on the main card. Both fighters are coming off losses and know a win can get themselves back in the title picture. Browne has vicious striking skills and Mitrione is a mobile big-man who loves to throw heavy leather at his opponent. In his last fight, Browne was in a sensational back-and-forth brawl with Andrei Arlovski which didn’t end in his favour. If the previously patient and technical Browne brings this style again to the octagon, Mitrione will be willing to join the dance. It is safe to assume that someone is going to get knocked out.

A fight not to miss on the Fox Sports preliminary card is a welterweight collision between Patrick ‘The Predator’ Cote and Ben ‘Killa B’ Saunders. Both are veteran fighters who are on a winning streak of two and three respectively. Cote has a mythical ability to absorb blows to the head. In 31 professional fights he has never been knocked out, so is able to trade punches in the pocket with no fear of reprisal. This excitement machine comes up against ‘Killa B’, who has looked classy in his return to the UFC, is dangerous in all areas and is particularly clinical attacking with submissions from his back.