Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White does not want to strip Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz of his title, despite the fact that "The Dominator" has not competed since 2011 due to a knee injury that required reconstructive surgery.
But he must.
I think in the early stages of his recovery, Cruz may have looked at losing his title as a punishment when in fact it's a perk, a favor returned for years of service under the UFC and World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) banner. Even if he comes back by his 2014 deadline, the strap has got to go.
Otherwise, Renan Pegado will just take it from him.
Prior to blowing up his knee, the 19-1 champion was in Cruz-control, outworking his opponents with his speed, timing and fluid striking. But you can't expect him to come back as the same fighter after spending more than two years on the injured reserves, when a good portion of that time was without any type of regular training.
Not against a fighter like "Barao."
The Brazilian -- who won the interim strap against Urijah Faber at UFC 148 -- has already defended it on separate occasions. After strangling Michael McDonald earlier this year in London, Pegado blew away Eddie Wineland with a spinning back kick in the co-main event of UFC 165 on Sept. 21 in Toronto.
The technical knockout (TKO) win over the Indianan pushed him to a staggering 30-1.
Cruz has been impressive, no question, but three of his last four opponents have all dropped to flyweight. I'm not sure the best Dominick Cruz could unify the belts, but it would be a much closer fight than a Dominick Cruz who must go from surgery, to rehab, to training, to "Barao."
Sounds like a mean thing to do when you say it out loud.
Instead, Cruz should surrender his strap and fight the winner of Urijah Faber vs. Michael McDonald, who tangle at the UFC on FOX 9 event in December. Since both "The California Kid" and "Mayday" have already had a turn at Pegado, it's a great way to get one of them back into title contention, while simultaneously eliminating the other two.
If Cruz, Faber and McDonald all fight each another, then only one can advance.
Or, you can have "The Dominator" take on the winner of Raphael Assuncao vs. T.J. Dillashaw, who do the deed next month in Brazil. True, you run the risk of burning a contender in an already anemic division, but you could also put them right into a title fight if they step on Cruz.
At the end of the day, I still want to see Cruz fight "Barao" for the 135-pound title. But I want the best Cruz to be fighting, and not a one-legged champ trying to shake off the cage rust in his first fight back, paired off against a violent and dynamic fighter who doesn't know how to lose.
For complete UFC 165 results and blow-by-blow coverage of all the night's action click here.