Aggression or Elusiveness: Who will win Cruz vs. Barao?Posted on July 23, 2012, 02:54 PM by Mike Drahota
With Renan Barao's convincing defeat of consensus number-one contender Urijah Faber at UFC 149, talk shifts to his looming bout with current Bantamweight titleholder Dominick Cruz. Cruz, who still remains on the shelf following major knee surgery, is rumored to be unable to fight until March of 2013 at the earliest. While the main event of UFC 149 has been much-maligned over the past few days as not delivering, the fact remains that Renan Barao is one of the most gifted and well-rounded fighters in the lower weight divisions of the UFC. So, how would he fare against “The Dominator,” who has done just that at 135 lbs. since obtaining the belt?
On paper, the discussion is that of Barao's relentless aggression versus Cruz's unending, confusing movement. Both fighters present an enigma of sorts to their opponents, which is what makes them so good in the first place. Barao seems to attack from all angles as we saw last weekend, throwing leg kicks, flying knees, and even spinning high kicks. These diverse strikes make him highly unpredictable and hard to prepare a gameplan for. His offense is so good that it becomes his defense in a way, because his opponents never have time to settle in and find a rhythm while fending off his multitude of strikes. The great Urijah Faber saw this firsthand in Calgary last Saturday.
Cruz, on the other hand, utilizes a stick-and-move strategy coupled with great wrestling that makes him tough to get to the ground. His movement is almost revolutionary in its uniqueness. This does not always translate into fights that fans clamor to see, evident by the fact that he participated in the only UFC title fight not on pay-per-view or major network television versus Demetrious Johnson at UFC Live last October. He last finished a fight when he won the WEC Bantamweight championship versus Brian Bowles, and that was a doctor stoppage. I'm not saying Cruz isn't a great fighter, because he is, but his style is geared towards winning elusive unanimous decisions. I don't see Barao getting much of a chance to use his BJJ black belt here.
Barao is highly known for being a finisher, be it submissions or knockouts. However, he has gone the distance in 3 out of his first 4 UFC bouts. This fact makes me think a fight between the Interim champ and the current champ would likely go to the judges' scorecards. I think that Barao would be effective in cutting off all of the angles that Cruz loves to take, earning a split decision in a war of attrition. A fully healthy Cruz would obviously stand a better chance, as his knee injury may very well have cut off his lateral movement somewhat. From what I have seen, Barao does possess shades of training partner Jose Aldo, although he still has a lot to learn from the 145 lb. champion.
The buildup to this fight is a tough spot for the UFC to be in, in that it is a bout they have to make but also one that could lead to more outcry from knockout-hungry fans around the world. Barao is willing to engage, but Cruz always come to evade. Fans may write the bout off as more of the same due to how UFC 149 played out. Hopefully it doesn't resign the lower weights classes to a boring classification. As fans, how do you see Renan Barao vs. Dominick Cruz playing out?