Dominick Cruz has long wanted to regain his old title. Now that he’s healthy, the UFC is giving him an immediate shot at the title he never really lost in the first place.

The Dominator

Dominick Cruz has been on the sidelines for so long that it’s even hard to remember how he dominated MMA’s bantamweight division from 2010 to 2011. After winning the WEC bantamweight title with a 2nd round TKO of Brian Bowles at WEC 47 in March 2010, Cruz made two successful title defenses against Joseph Benavidez and Scott Jorgensen before the promotion merged with the UFC and Cruz was promoted as UFC Bantamweight champion. As the UFC’s first Bantanweight king, Cruz exacted revenge on Urijah Faber with a dominant UF win at UFC 132 and then followed that up with an impressive win over current UFC flyweight champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson. But just as when his legend started to grow, the Dominator fell prey to a series of injuries that would force the UFC to strip him of his title.

The Long Hiatus

After beating Demeterious Johnson, Cruz was booked to fight Faber in a rubbermatch at UFC 148 after Faber won a title eliminator bout against Bowles. But after coaching opposite each other at The Ultimate Fighter Live, Cruz suffered an ACL injury that forced him to withdraw from the highly anticipated grudgematch. What followed was a series of injuries that led to a long hiatus. Cruz underwent a second ACL surgery in December 2012 and then suffered a groin injury in January 2014 which finally forced the UFC to strip him of his title and promote interim UFC Bantamweight champion to full champion status. After being away from the sport for nearly three years, Cruz made a successful return at UFC 178 where he knocked out Takeya Mizugaki in just 61 seconds to earn Fight of the Night Honors and the next title shot. But once again, Cruz suffered an ACL injury on his other knee and was forced to sit out virtually the entire 2015. Now that he’s been given the go-signal, the UFC finally booked him for a title shot with T.J. Dillashaw at UFC Fight Night 81 on January 17th, 2016.

The New King

While Cruz was busy healing his injuries, T.J. Dillashaw went busy dominating the remaining bantamweight field. After shocking the world with a major upset of Renan Barao at UFC 173 last May 2014, Dillashaw has established himself as the current man to beat at Bantamweight. Ranked as the 5th best Pound for Pound fighter in the sport today, Dillashaw has made two successful defenses of his title including a one sided beat down of Barao in their rematch at UFC on Fox 16 last July 25, 2015. Dillashaw is the only man to beat Barao twice and convincingly both times via late TKO. Prior to losing to Dillashaw last May 2014, Barao went undefeated for nine years from 2005-2014, going 32-0 with 1 no contest. Barao had won 22 consecutive matches prior to his bout with Dillashaw but the Viper easily dominated him and erased his aura of invincibility. Dillashaw is 4-0 with 3 KOs since losing a close split decision to Raphael Assuncao in 2013. Dillashaw is 12-2 with 6 KOs and 3 submissions.

Battle Lines Have Been Drawn

After Dillashaw’s win over Barao last July, Cruz called him a “wannabe” who “stole” his fighting style. Dillashaw countered by promising to knock out Cruz “faster than Barao.” Now that the battle lines have been drawn, we have a great fight to look forward to and this one features probably the two most dominant champions in the history of the UFC’s bantamweight division.

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