UFC Fight Night 81 Preview

ufc-fn81In 2014 T.J. Dillashaw shocked the world in a year of shocks when he beat Renan Barao for the Bantamweight title.

Barao was never supposed to lose and Dillashaw was simply supposed to be a place holder until a better opponent became available.

It was a division that was supposed to be ruled by Barao for years to come as one of the new dominant champions in the UFC.

Then Dillashaw beat Barao not only once but twice solidifying his spot as the best fighter in the Bantamweight division.

Despite that title there was always something hanging over the rein of Dillashaw that he inherited form the rein of Barao.

That thing has been Dominick Cruz who was the first UFC Bantamweight champion when he moved from the WEC to the UFC in 2011.

He was the WEC champion and when the UFC began their weight class expansion they looked to him to lead their new lighter weight class.

He led the division well beating the likes of Urijah Faber and Demetrious Johnson to retain his belt.

Then, before a rematch with Faber, Cruz went down tearing his ACL while training for the fight.

Cruz was left with a long recovering and then during surgery to repair his ACL more complications kept his sidelined.

The result was an even longer layoff and the loss of his belt which the UFC took away due to inactivity.

In his place was now Barao and no matter how many fights Barao was in and how long he held the title there was always the question of whether he was better than Cruz.

Barao was never going to be the true champion in many eyes unless he beat Cruz as many waited for him to come back.

He was set to finally come back in 2014 and fight Barao to solve the question that everyone had but before the fight a pulled groin sidelined him once again.

Barao went on to beat Faber, who filled in for Cruz, and then lost to Dillashaw who took on the same doubts of being the bantamweight champion.

Cruz eventually came back beating Takeya Mizugaki in an impressive showing for his first fight in more than three years.

That win proved that Cruz was back to form and that he deserved a chance to fight for the title.

He is the rare former champion that has never lost a title fight in the UFC and never lost a title fight but comes into a title fight as the challenger.

He gets his shot at taking a title that many thought he couldn’t lose, aside from being stripped due to inactivity, while Dillashaw gets a chance to prove that he is the real champion.mma-sidebar.fw

There is plenty ot prove for either fighter and neither one will be able to walk through the other especially as they seem to continually get better.

The question for Cruz was whether or not his time off was going to change the way he fought and potentially bring ring rust into the equation.

A first round knockout of Mizugaki ended any questions of ring rust as Cruz was his typical self in his return fight.

He was technical and fast when fighting Mizugaki and showed a renewed finishing power that UFC fans had yet to see with Cruz in the promotion.

It might have been the frustration of his years off and the setbacks but it also might be signs that he is a different fighter than he was entering the UFC.

Dillashaw has only been getting better since before the title fight that changed his life and much of that had to do with a new trainer in Team Alpha Male, Duane Ludwig.

Ludwig moved to create his own gym and Dillashaw followed him in hopes that he can continue to develop his striking game that has been so effective recently.

The question will be whether or not Dillashaw attempts to test his stand-up against someone that looks to be a better stand-up fighter.

The champion made his way into the UFC through his wrestling ability and the ground and pound that went with it but has been standing more under Ludwig’s tutelage.

Cruz is very good on the feet but not as talented on the ground so the best option might be to take the fight to the ground and work with his old strength.

That might be the difference in this fight as Dillashaw’s game plan will have the biggest effect on this fight and who walks away with the title.

The way that Dillashaw is fighting recently might give him that confidence to stand with Cruz and that will be a mistake as Cruz will take the fight with a second round knockout.


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