Cruz, Benavidez set for rematch
Dominick Cruz beat Joseph Benavidez when the bantamweights met last August
The two are getting together for a rematch Wednesday on Versus (9 p.m. ET)
Benavidez's camp insists Cruz should change nickname to 'The Decisionator'
Because of what Chael Sonnen did leading up to this fight with Anderson Silva, things feel awfully quiet prior to Wednesday's WEC championship featuring the top two bantamweights in MMA.
Dominick Cruz (15-1) and Joseph Benavidez (12-1) will meet for the second time tonight (9 p.m. ET, Versus), one year removed from a unanimous decision win for Cruz, the soon-to-be champion. It's a rematch that, based on styles, results, energy and competitiveness, makes sense.
Yet few people seem to be discussing it. A post-Sonnen lull, perhaps.
If you can bring yourself to care about a fight without an avalanche of quotable copy, good for you. I'm firmly in that camp. It would be a disservice to fighters like Cruz and Benavidez, 135-pounders who exhibit as much skill as any fighters today, not to care.
Still, you're itching for just a little bit of Sonnen-ese. It's understandable considering what we wall just went through.
Maybe, not likely but maybe, this line from Urjiah Faber, Benavidez's training partner and friend, will scratch the itch:
"Cruz dances around and does potshotting, weird little shots that aren't knockout punches," Faber said. "When you're doing that and dancing around get guys chasing it allows for takedowns. It's definitely a unique style but it's not that dangerous. He finds a way to win. He should change his name from 'The Dominator' to 'The Decisionator.'"
The Decisionator. It's as good as you'll get and it's not that good.
Cruz's trainer, Eric Del Fierro, laughed.
His fighter -- not quite Jon Fitch when it comes to going the distance, though he has needed the full time in eight of his 15 victories -- is "one these athletes that's getting better every show," Del Fierro said. "It's just a matter of finding his range. He has five rounds this time and he was picking Benavidez apart come the third last time around. I think Benavidez is elusive enough that it will go at least three rounds. But I think Dominick will finish him by at least the fourth round. The weapons to finish are there, it's just a matter of if we can implement them. Benavidez is scrambling and elusive. He doesn't take a lot of damage."
Yeah, it's not happening for you. Maybe this is the kind of fight that's worth our interest because it's going to render some terrific MMA. Maybe this is the kind of fight that's worth our interest because it's No. 1 vs. No. 2 in an extremely compelling weight division.
In the year since they last met in Las Vegas, Cruz secured the title against a previously undefeated Brian Bowles and turned 25.
Benavidez, meanwhile, regained his confidence after falling on points to Cruz by crushing Rani Yahya in 95 seconds and overwhelming former champion Miguel Torres in a round-and-a-half.
"I've been telling him since the beginning he's the best 135-pounder in the world," said Faber of his 26-year-old friend. "And he didn't discount it, but after that I think he realized he has the ability to be the very best."
Too much aggressiveness, said Faber, cost Benavidez his perfect record last August. That and a lack of respect for Cruz's wrestling. After watching a replay of the fight, Benavidez vowed not to be "out-game planned" again. He'll have to fight with intelligence, and can't play into Cruz's counter fighting or range if he expects to find a better result.
"I see 'The Decisionator' planning on going the distance," said Faber, who was scheduled to make his bantamweight debut tonight but fell off the card because of a torn MCL, which fortunately for him won't require surgery. "That's his best chance to win. I don't see him finishing anybody at a higher level. Joseph could win a decision. He could also submit him. He could also knock him out. Dominick's done a good job of finding ways to win but it's more irritating the guy than beating him up."
One thing that hasn't changed is the champion's size advantage. Standing next to the 5-foot-4 Benavidez, who by all rights should be at 125 pounds, Cruz looks gigantic. He's four inches taller and will step in the cage close to 150 pounds.
"Benavidez is the toughest opponent for Dominick Cruz as far as matchup and style," said Del Fierro. "He's one of the few guys that can actually kickbox. He can put together combinations and finish with a kick or start with a kick.
"I think what will happen this time, just because it's five rounds, it'll be more technical and less of a brawl, which is preferable to Dominick's style."
And maybe then people will choose to talk about it.
Cruz def. Benavidez unanimous decision 5R
Shane Roller def. Anthony Pettis submission R2
Chad Mendes def. Cub Swanson unanimous decision 3R
Scott Jorgensen def. Brad Pickett split decision 3R
Bart Palaszweski def. Zach Micklewright TKO R3