We don’t know if the UFC’s current bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw is that much better than the UFC’s former bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz.
Those aren’t just the words belonging to the thousands of fight fans longing for a bout between two of the most dominant bantamweight champions in mixed martial arts history—they belong to Dillashaw’s head coach Duane Ludwig, too.
It’s a fight that would create a legacy for one of the youngest, most dangerous strikers in all of MMA. It could also cement the legacy of a fighter marred by lengthy, untimely injuries.
Despite coaching his way through two one-sided beatdowns of Renan Barao, Ludwig says the fight against Cruz needs to happen. And although he doesn’t exactly know what will happen, he has a pretty good hunch as to how it goes down, he tells Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour:
“I want that fight to happen, 100 percent. I think he matches up well. I see T.J. knocking him out within two rounds, stopping the fight within two rounds. It will be because of something that we’ll train, specifically. There’s things. I think differently and I know my athletes. There is another level to martial arts available now. [Cruz] looked great against Mizugaki. He looked phenomenal, then he gets hurt again.”
But it won’t be as simple as putting pen to paper to get these two into the cage. As noted, Cruz is currently mending the latest of several ACL surgeries. Placing him into the cage with a fighter as actively dominant as Dillashaw’s been in recent memory might not make sense for a fighter who’s only stepped into the cage once in what will end up being a four-year span.
“If they give Cruz a tune-up fight, that would be fair. But this fight needs to happen because Cruz never lost his title. He was stripped. So, you have to do what is ethically right, and that fight needs to happen anyways because it’s a big fight and to make sure that it’s truly undisputed. Obviously T.J. is the champion now, but there is a little bit of gray area now, just because of Cruz.”
Without Cruz, Dillashaw’s future as a defending champion becomes a bit clouded. Between long-standing injuries, close relationships or recent losses, none of the UFC’s top five warrant a title shot at the moment.
But, as is customary in the UFC, title challengers can come from anywhere.
— Dana White (@danawhite) July 26, 2015