After competing three times in 2016, former UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz (22-2) will not be fighting at all in 2017, as he’s been forced to withdraw from his UFC 219 matchup against Jimmie Rivera with a broken arm. Ariel Helwani reported the news on Wednesday.
Cruz’s UFC career has been marred by numerous injuries. He was forced to vacate his bantamweight title in 2014 after tearing his groin before a unification bout vs. Renan Barao. After defeating Takeya Mizugaki in his Octagon return later that September, Cruz suffered a torn ACL, which left him unable to fight for the whole of 2015. Improbably, he regained his crown by winning a split decision over T.J. Dillashaw in January 2016, defended it with an easy win over Urijah Faber at UFC 199, but lost his belt to Cody Garbrandt at UFC 207 last December.
Rivera (21-1) is a perfect 5-0 in the UFC and is coming off a thrilling decision win over Thomas Almeida at UFC on FOX 25 in July. The New Jersey native hasn’t lost a fight since 2008, and figures to be incredibly close to a title shot. Only Cody Garbrandt and Cruz are above him in the UFC’s official rankings, so this would’ve been an excellent chance for him to cement his status as the next title challenger, but now he needs a new opponent.
One person who is interested in replacing Cruz is none other than heavy-handed brawler John Lineker. Another good option would be Aljamain Sterling, who is also without an opponent after his December 9th showdown with Rani Yahya had to be nixed due to a Yahya injury. Sterling and Rivera were recently involved in a Twitter spat.
UFC 219 takes place on December 30th at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The card currently does not have a main event.