Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight rivals Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber will complete their trilogy this Saturday (June 4, 2016) at The Forum in Inglewood, California.
The last few years of Cruz's career have been the most difficult of his life because of numerous surgeries and rehabs that kept him out of the Octagon. However, he endured all that and returned successfully, winning a split decision to finally regain his strap.
Meanwhile, Faber is undefeated at Bantamweight since coming up short to Renan Barao in a 2014 title shot. It isn't the longest win streak of his entire career, but "California Kid" will finally have a chance to finish the trilogy.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for both athletes:
Key Victories: T.J. Dillashaw (UFC Fight Night 81), Urijah Faber (UFC 132), Demetrious Johnson (UFC on Versus 6), Takeya Mizugaki (UFC 178)
Key Losses: Urijah Faber (WEC 26)
Keys to Victory: Cruz is one of the most unique fighters in the world. His style revolves around movement, as Cruz jukes and jives his way around the Octagon, making his opponent miss frequently while landing his own strikes and takedowns.
It's definitely unorthodox, but it's worked incredibly well for "The Dominator."
In his last bout with Faber, Cruz was able to employ his style for much of the fight. Across five rounds, he countered his opponent, landed in higher volume and scored brief takedowns.
It was close, but the judges all agreed that Cruz had done enough to win.
With both men still sticking to their guns and fighting in similar fashion, Cruz needs to do the same thing here. Really, his major key to victory is to avoid getting dropped by the right hand, as getting put on his ass was a large part of the reason the fight ended up so close.
If he can avoid being hurt by strikes, Cruz can play his game and win in his usual style.
Key Wins: Dominick Cruz (WEC 26), Michael McDonald (UFC on FOX 9), Frankie Saenz (UFC 194)
Key Losses: Renan Barao (UFC 149, UFC 169), Jose Aldo (WEC 48), Dominick Cruz (UFC 132)
Keys to Victory: Faber is a talented wrestler and tremendous submission artist, having finished an incredible 19 opponents via tapout. Additionally, he's a dangerous kickboxer, best known for his powerful right hand.
If there's one very important factor in his bout, it's conditioning. In their rematch, it was close throughout, but Cruz did his best work in the later rounds as Faber began to slow down a bit.
However, it didn't work out that way for Cruz in his last match. Instead, Cruz got hit more in the last two rounds of his fight, as fatigue combined with damage forced him to slow down a bit.
Therefore, if Faber is able to push a pace for five hard rounds, it could really work out in his favor. Volume will be a big key in this fight, so if he's able to land consistently and with more power across the entire fight, that's a winning recipe.
Bottom Line: It's the rubber match of two of the best Bantamweights ever.
Cruz already made his story book return to reclaim championship gold. Now that he sits on the throne, the question becomes how long can he hold onto the strap against potential opponents or more injuries?
If Cruz comes out on top here, he's still got plenty of serious challenges ahead of him, so hopefully he can stay healthy. On the other hand, a defeat would be a bitter pill to swallow so soon after regaining the belt, especially since Cruz seems to hate Faber so intently.
In all likelihood, this is Faber's last title shot. He's definitely nearing the end of his career, and there's no better way to go out than by settling a grudge and earning the strap in the process. If he intends to stick around, there's always a big money fight with Dillashaw available.
Should Faber come up short, it's not clear whether he'll continue to compete. He's very deep into his career and has already competed for the title multiple times, so there's not much left for him to do at Bantamweight.
At UFC 199, Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber will battle in the co-main event. Which man will leave the Octagon with a strap of gold?