Fans who don't like to watch Dominick Cruz missed this suplex last night. Photos by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC
UFC champion Dominick Cruz did exactly what he needed to do to hit a curveball out of the park on Saturday night in the UFC on Versus 6 main event title showdown with Demetrious Johnson. Johnson's blazing speed countered Cruz's dominant stand-up game, making it difficult for the champion to utilize the herky-jerky movements that got him to where he sits today atop the division. Champion make adjustments however, and Cruz did exactly that, out wrestling Johnson to neutralize his speed and winning convincingly on the scorecards.
Unfortunately, there weren't many fans who watched the chess match unfold. The marketing in the week leading up to this card was nearly non-existent. Crossover promotion for the event on other channels didn't exist. Buzz for the event on our own website was abysmal to say the least. Stefan Struve vs. Pat Barry received far more interest from fans than a title fight for the UFC bantamweight strap.
Cruz isn't doing himself any favors either, but how can we lay any blame on him for dominating the competition? His dizzying array of movements on the feet have been likened to Jon Fitch's smothering ground game. Boring and expected. Opponents can't figure it out however. It took a speedy natural flyweight named Demetrious Johnson to solve the puzzle, and he still couldn't bring home gold.
For some hardcore fans, last night's title tilt was an entertaining showcase of skill filled with great scrambles and solid grappling. Strangely, even hardcore fans have criticized Cruz's style. Many fans were bored by his efforts last night. Casual fans? They probably didn't even watch the show. Far more appealing sports programming existed, and they likely didn't even know about the event, headlined by two guys they never heard of.
The future is even more grim for Cruz. While he attempts to make a long, lengthy run at the record for the most consecutive title defenses, his options are growing more and more bleak. The bantamweight division isn't filled with talent. In doing research for the upcoming edition of the Scouting Report, it's been difficult finding new talent to fill the lower rungs of the division. Title contenders who have a legitimate chance, at least on paper, of stopping Cruz don't exist. Joe Rogan is wrong. There isn't a long list of contenders awaiting Cruz.
Cruz is in a difficult situation. Fans don't hear his name and think "I have to see that fight". Some fans have never heard his name... ever. His style of fighting isn't appealing to the casual fan. The bantamweight division is almost as shallow as the heavyweight division. The only saving grace is that it sits below the featherweight division, creating chances for 145 pounders to make the drop. If the UFC ever creates a flyweight division, it takes away from Dominick Cruz's contender pool.
Fans want knockouts, and Dominick Cruz, despite his dominance, doesn't produce that type of offense. His rangy stand-up tactics will never destroy the chins of his opponents. The bantamweight division, in general, isn't a power division like the light heavyweight or heavyweight divisions. For all the talk that the product sells itself, these fights sure haven't produced any buzz.
The UFC isn't doing the division any favors. The division barely has a presence on UFC pay-per-view main cards or events aired on free TV. That won't change. It will never change. Bigger, stronger, faster mantras will always rule the combat sports' landscape no matter how hard we try to convince people that the lighter weight classes are far more exciting. There are many fans who look past two tired heavyweights slapping each other in the third round of a UFC PPV main card fight. Time may be the answer, but it's going to be a very long time.