The greatest bantamweight of all time returns on Saturday to take on one of the division’s elite. Former champion Dominick Cruz makes his return to the octagon to face Pedro Munhoz at UFC 269. Coming off of a hard-fought win last March against Casey Kenney, Cruz looks to once again re-enter the top five en route to a championship. Munhoz who stands at #8, two spots above Cruz could potentially catapult him close to his goal if Cruz can win impressively.
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However, it’s a mistake for anyone to look past the Brazilian contender. Although 1-3 in his last four, the opponents Munhoz has most recently challenged himself against are nothing short of amazing, including Jose Aldo, Aljamain Sterling, and Frankie Edgar, a lineup of former and current champions. Munhoz has shown himself to be a wicked knockout artist and a submission machine and will be a tough test ready to derail Cruz’s re-ascension.
Cruz vs. Munhoz betting odds
The two bantamweights stand at a dead even in betting lines. Regardless of who you pick, a $115 bet is required to win a profit of $100.
- Cruz: -115
- Munhoz: -115
Cruz vs. Munhoz breakdown
It’s nothing but a fact to say that Dominick Cruz may have one of if not the most unique style in the UFC. Largely dependent on a footwork system of his own creation, Cruz specializes in frustrating his opponents with evasive activity and awkward striking, coupled with reactionary wrestling and off beat timing. The way this works is Cruz uses constant movement on the feet, he steps forward and bounces back, causing his opponents to tense, and brace for impact for no reason. This flusters fighters, and they tend to push forward out of frustration, at which point Cruz is able to slip and bob extremely deep in order to off balance them and counter with wide looping shots.
One of the obstacles Cruz has had to overcome in his career is an odd lack of natural power. It seems that compared to most other fighters his size, Cruz just doesn’t have the same kind of weight in his hands, however to counteract this issue, Cruz uses his wide dramatic evasive movements to set up high momentum on his strikes. He will duck low so as to cock the punch off the opposite side from further than your regular hook, uppercut or overhand, because of this, his punches tend to land long and his hooks almost look like a ridgehand movement.
The other way in which Cruz makes use of his particularly dramatic head movement, is he hides his takedowns. Cruz doesn’t usually look for a wrestling heavy gameplan, but consistently uses takedowns to offset his opponents rhythm. Typically, Cruz uses his movement to force a burst forward from his opponents, he ducks under as he would if he were just striking but doubles down and reaches for the double leg. He doesn’t normally drop his base as preferred by most wrestlers, but rather hinges at the hips and runs through, this works because he gets so deep off of the reactionary slip.
Cruz does best when he is being the aggressive counter striker. He feints and moves and forces his opponents to lash out and then he uses high level reactions to win. However, the times where he has had the most problems, is when he is behind on the cards and has to lead in order to try to catch up. This causes Cruz to take risks, and with his awkward style it puts him in some unbalanced positions himself. In recent years, while the style is still the same we have also seen Cruz more flat footed and slower. Whether this is lingering effects of his battle with plantar-fasciitis or simply father time, Cruz has been there to be hit more often, and evaded shots by a smaller margin of space. He will now look to plod forward more before engaging in his light footwork, so as to pace himself and his high activity.
Pedro Munhoz came into the sport as a feared grappler. Particularly, while outside the UFC he was known for his grappling variety, inside the UFC he has become known for his guillotine. That being said, since entering the top escalon of the division, it has been Munhoz striking that has brought him the most success.
For the most part Munhoz uses a straightforward style, he has heavy handed boxing and breaks down his opponent’s base using low leg kicks. He has a steady pace that allows him to work comfortably down the stretch, even having been able to relatively keep pace in a five round bout against Frankie Edgar. What Munhoz does so well, is he finds his way into the pocket where he uses crisp boxing, by doing so he forces his opponent’s to engage in a boxing exchange and put weight on their lead leg, setting themselves up to eat Munhoz’s leg kicks.
Typically, this assortment of threatening upper body striking and punishing low kicks, leads to some desperation, sometimes in the form of his opponent’s shooting on Munhoz, which is exactly where he wants them so that he can hunt for his signature guillotine.
The problem with Munhoz’s approach is it hinges on his ability to force his opponents to react to his boxing exchanges. If he can force fighters into the pocket, his route to victory becomes smoother, but against those who have found a way to manipulate space and timing have been able to disengage from this area altogether. Sterling was able to force a kicking battle, Aldo was able to box moving back and Edgar’s lateral movement rarely saw him caught in the pocket. Therefore it’s extremely important for Munhoz to get ahead early or find another way to draw Cruz into an exchange if he wants to win.
Cruz vs. Munhoz prediction
Ultimately I think that both men have a close level of skill. Cruz, in this later section of his career is a bit more flat-footed which plays more into Munhoz game, but because Munhoz has fewer entries and his game hinges on getting inside I think Cruz’s ability to manipulate space and timing is going to be the deciding factor.
Prediction: Dominick Cruz to win via decision
Braeden Arbour is an aspiring journalist out of Ontario, Canada. He is a recent graduate of Trent University, with a black belt in Karate and a blue belt in Judo. He has also been an avid fan of MMA for the last decade.