Dominick Cruz and his long road back to the UFC

Dominick Cruz is the reigning UFC bantamweight champion. There's just one problem. He hasn't been able to defend his belt in two years.

The past few years haven't been kind to Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz. The last time he entered the UFC's Octagon was way back in October of 2011 at UFC Live: Cruz vs Johnson when he successfully defended his bantamweight strap against current Flyweight champion, Demetrious Johnson, at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.

In fact, to put things a little bit more in perspective, that was the last event aired on Versus (now NBC Sports). That's correct, it was the final event held before their television deal with Fox went into effect.

Cruz coached opposite Urijah Faber on The Ultimate Fighter: Live, and the two were expected to face off at UFC 148. Unfortunately, Cruz tore his ACL in training and was forced from the bout. He underwent ACL replacement, where they used the ACL from a cadaver.

It was believed to be a successful surgery, but his body rejected it seven months later and he had to go back under the knife for another attempt.

In the time that he's been away from fighting, the bantamweight landscape has changed. Renan Barao is the interim champion, having dominated every fighter that Joe Silva has booked him against.

To UFC President Dana White's credit and perhaps to Cruz' detriment, he has refused to strip the champ of his belt. You know, in order to be the man, you have to beat the man. But it's my belief that this is doing Cruz a great disservice. Without out a doubt, Barao is the most dangerous fighter in the UFC's bantamweight division. He looks to finish and finish violently.

And Cruz is expected to fight him after an almost 30 month layoff? That's absolutely insane.

This isn't a situation where he's spent time improving and getting better. For the past two years, he's been on the shelf, doing nothing but watching other's get better.

Sure, he could be watching tape and creating game plans in his head for the inevitable bout with Barao, but until that moment, all he's been doing is thinking about hypotheticals.

And this is assuming that the rest of his recovery and rehabilitation goes perfectly. Getting back on the mats for grappling is one thing. Reworking his stand up is a whole different beast. His entire style is based around movement, and bouncing back and forth between his feet.

This kind of injury can force him to change that entire style. Or at the very least, that style could cause some minor issues once he is back to 100%. He's still young, it's now up to him to decide how bad he wants it.

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