Dominick Cruz can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. The former UFC bantamweight champion will make his long overdue Octagon return at UFC 178 against Takeya Mizugaki. The September 27 clash in Las Vegas will represent the first bout in nearly three years for “The Dominator”.
Cruz has had his resolve tested on several occasions due to a truly miserable stretch of injuries. His last UFC appearance was back in October of 2011 when he defended his 135-pound bantamweight title against current flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson. The unanimous decision victory over “Mighty Mouse” was his second and last UFC defense.
The promotion had allowed Cruz to retain his share of the title despite a prolonged absence brought about by a pair of reconstructive knee surgeries. He was finally forced to relinquish his belt when another injury scrapped a scheduled title unification bout at UFC 169 against Renan Barao.
The no. 12-ranked Cruz has an impressive 19-1 career record and has won 10 straight fights since suffering his lone career loss against Urijah Faber back in their WEC days. It was a defeat that Cruz would avenge at UFC 132. The major issue will revolve around how Cruz will be impacted by potential Octagon rust and if he can ever regain his elite form.
His career success has been achieved thanks to his athleticism, outstanding movement and accurate striking. Cruz has always had outstanding stamina and is used to lasting the distance. While he has six knockouts to his credit, 12 of the former champion’s career wins have come by decision.
Mizugaki is very similar to Cruz in that most of his contests tend to go to the judges’ scorecards. He has six finishes to his credit in 20 career victories. His most recent triumph was a unanimous decision nod over Francisco Rivera at UFC 173. The no. 5-ranked contender is currently riding a five-fight win streak that includes notable wins against Bryan Caraway and Erik Perez.
Mizugaki has a granite chin and strong stand-up skills. He’s rarely involved in a dull contest, and that trend should continue against Cruz.
This shapes up as a solid test for the former champion in his Octagon return. Cruz can get right back into the title hunt with a victory over a top-five opponent. Mizugaki is currently on one of the finest runs of his career, and it’s the perfect time for the Japanese veteran to seek his biggest UFC win.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports