A year ago this week Cruz pulled out of the Faber fight.
Cruz will return eventually to fight a prime Barao. The 28 year old American hasnt fought in a year and a half, and counting. His first recovery hit a set back after his body rejected a dead mans ACL. As for Barao, the 26 year old Brazilian is currently a legit BW champ in all but name. The plastic belt Barao holds, in no way merits his rise to the top of the division. He has one of the longer streaks in MMA history and any arguments about competition levels, must surely have been quelled by his competent display against an ATG and ever tricky opponent in Faber, and his dismantling of the game, but green McDonald. Decisions against Escovedo and Jorgansen, and finishes against Pickett and Cariaso all hold up well p4p as a champion of the sport.
At BW Cruz is a different beast, and holds a Machida like puzzle that no one has been able to solve. His win list includes some of the biggest names of the smaller end of the sport. Like Barao, he decisioned Faber and Jorgansen. In fact he decisioned pretty much everyone hes stepped into the cage with since his solitary loss in the sport, to Faber at FW 6 years ago. With the exception of Bowles, every win of his 9 have been decisions.
In comparing these two, you have 2 massive win streaks. Cruz has that one Faber loss in 20 fights. Barao has 1 loss also. It happened on his debut (like quite a few great fighters). Since then he has gone 1 NC and 30 wins in an 8 year period. Some of his earlier wins were of course questioned, competition wise, but he has just carried right on. At this point, in a slightly more credible division, he would be approaching GOAT hype by now at the grand old age of 26. Barao has had little to no significant injuries in that time. His proliferate schedule in the early years is staggering. In 2008 he fought 7 times.
Barao is just very skilled in the game. His defensive wrestling is top notch, his striking is both competent and powerful. His submissions are fast and slick. Compared to Cruz he is a far more pronounced finisher. He is a danger on a half beat at any point of the fight. Quick finishes to ordinary looking exchanges in the Pickett and McDonald fight demonstrated a sweet tooth for the stoppage. The Faber fight was a lot more cautious, but he was fighting Faber...Baraos finish rate is not just about his levels of competition, its ingrained in his fight character and abilities. In 30 wins he has 20 stoppages. He is 4 for 7 in finishes in UFC/WEC competition. Cruz is 1 for 10.
Cruz has a tight game at BW, but a lot of it relies on footwork and speed. These atributes are inevitably likely to age with him slightly, and are incredibly vulnerable to his recent issues with injury. On the other hand, Baraos outing against Faber, whilst demonstrating a competent and workmanlike victory, would be the kind of fight that would play into a healthy Dominicks hands. Its never going to be easy to out point someone like that. Some vulnerabilities were seen in both the Faber and the Johnson fights, but will Barao be able to exploit them for the stoppage, or even out point the points master himself?
Who do you have winning this fight? And how?