Former UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz is finally set to return.
News arrived tonight that Cruz will take on rising No. 3-ranked Jimmie Rivera at December 30’s UFC 219 pay-per-view (PPV) event from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Cruz has been on the sidelines since losing to current champion Cody Garbrandt at the UFC’s last year-ending card of December 30, 2016’s UFC 207.
Prior to that defeat, his only loss in the UFC, Cruz had maintained a peerless record in the octagon, defending the title twice before injuries derailed his otherwise dominant reign. He returned from a lengthy battle with serious knee injuries to win the title from then-champion T.J. Dillashaw in early 2016, defending the title against archrival Urijah Faber before losing the belt to Faber’s Team Alpha Male protegé “No Love.”
He’ll have no easy comeback against Rivera, who’s won all five of his bouts in the UFC, most recently defeating Thomas Almeida at July’s UFC on FOX 25 after he beat Faber and Iuri Alcantara by decision. The New Jersey native has quietly risen up the loaded 125-pound ranks to the cusp of title contention against the winner of the upcoming Garbrandt vs. Dillashaw title bout at UFC 217, something that will almost assuredly be his if he can get past a decorated former champ in Cruz.
Also added to UFC 219 was a women’s strawweight bout between surging Team Alpha Male contender Cynthia Calvillo and former champion Carla Esparza. No main event has been announced for the card, but the Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz trilogy bout has been rumored for the promotion’s New Year’s card.