We’ve all messed with a Rubik’s Cube in our lifetime. Some people, like myself, spend days trying to match up all the colors on each side. Some people, like my 1st grade self, take off all the stickers and then arrange them to make it look like we completed the puzzle. And some people can solve the cube in 10 moves. I want to punch those people in the face.
In MMA, there’s a human Rubik’s Cube who gets punched in the face by his opponent as they try to solve him.
His name is Dominick Cruz, or as I like to call him, “The Cruzik’s Cube”.
Ever since Cruz dropped to bantamweight in 2008, he hasn’t lost in eight bantamweight bouts and he’s developed a style that has made him extremely tough to figure out. He’s not the biggest guy in his weight class, he’s not the fastest, and he doesn’t have an abnormally long reach. He just puts everything together so well that even when you have one side figured out, there are still more sides to figure out.
The way Cruz bounces around on his feet and moves his shoulders and head is something that can’t be replicated in training camp. No other fighter moves the way Cruz does and puts everything together the way he does. He’s the most active fighter on his feet, even when he’s not throwing strikes because with the way he moves, it always looks like he’s throwing a feint or just setting up an attack and that throws off his opponents.
Urijah Faber and Joseph Benavidez, who are teammates, both had success against Cruz when they pressed the action. Faber, who didn’t land much at UFC 132, made it count when he landed and hurt the champ on more than one occasion. Faber didn’t quite press the action enough though and was on the wrong side of the decision. Benavidez didn’t really hurt Faber, but he was constantly moving forward and we’ve all learned that aggression can steal a decision, and Benavidez ended up doing enough in one judges eyes (or eye) to earn a split decision loss.
Unfortunately Benavidez lacked the power and Faber lacked the aggression.
Even if you can figure out the striking of Cruz, you still have to deal with his wrestling and grappling. His takedown defense is top-notch and if he does get put on his back, he can pop back up or pull off a sweep to turn things into his favor.
He uses his offensive wrestling to steal or solidify rounds. At the end of every frame, he loves to go for the knee tap takedown, and even though fighters know it’s coming, they still have trouble stopping it. Faber had success staying on his feet but “The California Kid” is also a fighter who has always been known for his scramble ability and is one of the few fighters who can match the size of Cruz in the division. Fighters like Benavidez, who is a good scrambler but undersized for the division, and Scott Jorgensen, who is a good wrestler as well and very strong for the division, didn’t quite have the same success.
Tonight, Demetrious Johnson tries to solve the Cruzik’s Cube. He’s one of the few fighters who can match the speed of Cruz, but he, like Benavidez, is undersized for 135 and isn’t really a great striker, at least not on the level of Cruz’ past few opponents.
Is “Mighty Mouse” the person to solve Cruz? I don’t believe so. The champion has a distinct advantage on the feet, and even thought Johnson is very fast, he’s going to have a tough time getting Cruz down due to his size.
To beat Cruz, opponents can’t be mesmerized by the movements. They have to realize that all the movements are just to set up his offense attack, and that defensively, he is hittable and he’s not really a counter striker.
Solving a Rubik’s Cube isn’t really that hard, neither is solving the Cruzik’s Cube. People trick themselves into doubt though. With the toy, people get frustrated when they have one side figured out, only to realize that they completely screwed up what they were working on on a different side. With the fighter, opponents get frustrated when they see Cruz moving in odd angles and mixing things up better than many fighters in the sport.
Of course all of this is easier said than done. I can figure out the Rubik’s Cube in my mind, but once the thing gets in my hand, I twist it for a few minutes before realizing that it’s better off being used as a chew toy for my dog. People can figure out the Cruzik’s Cube on paper, but unless they have the skillset and mentality to get the job done, they’re just going to become another frustrated victim.
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC