Pedro Munhoz will have a hard puzzle to solve later tonight (Sat., Dec. 11, 2021) at UFC 269 live on ESPN+ PPV from inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, when the bantamweight contender meets former division champion Dominick Cruz in a crucial “Prelims” matchup.
While Munhoz has been competing under the UFC banner since 2014 and has fought the likes of Jose Aldo, Frankie Edgar, Aljamain Sterling, and Cody Gabrandt, “Young Punisher” has never encountered someone quite as unique as Cruz. After all, Cruz possesses some of the best footwork and movement the sport of MMA has ever seen. He offers specific threats that most fighters don’t, which is why Munhoz had to pull out all the stops for this camp.
Luckily, the UFC veteran was able to utilize the help of fellow MMA standouts Adriano Moraes and Kyoji Horiguchi to help him prepare for “Dominator.” They may not have shown Munhoz the exact same looks that Cruz will, but Munhoz feels prepared for his battle with the former champion.
“[Moraes] is very good at copying, he’s very skilled,” said Munhoz (per MMA Fighting). “Other guys don’t fight exactly like Dominick Cruz but we mixed it up, mixing someone’s power with someone else’s wrestling. Kyoji moves really fast and fights on the outside, so we used that since Dominick fights on the outside.
“Nobody fights like Dominick. So, what does Dominick do? Dominick fights on the outside and needs the distance to fight, and Kyoji also needs the distance to fight. Someone that kind of moves the same way? ‘Mikinho’ [Moraes]. Someone that has quick hands? Someone that has great takedowns? We have 30 here [at ATT]. Someone that has good great jiu-jitsu? Every single person giving their best in training makes me do my 100 percent all the time and get me on a higher level so I can study and prepare my style to fight Dominick Cruz.”
Munhoz, who turned 35 this past September, is in need of a big win after going 2-3 in his last five trips to the Octagon. Those fights have come against the absolute best in the bantamweight division, but Munhoz needs a victory over Cruz to keep himself in the title hunt entering 2022.
That said, Cruz may end up being the toughest fight of Munhoz’s career. Munhoz has the utmost respect for the former UFC champion and his journey back to the top and believes he’ll be fighting a well-prepared Dominick Cruz this weekend at UFC 269.
“After two years away and coming off knee injuries, two or three surgeries, and performing the way he performed against T.J., we can’t treat him like any other athlete,” Munhoz said of Cruz. “He went there and beat the odds. People said he couldn’t take another kick to the knee and he fought T.J. for five rounds, a war. I watched it live in Boston, so, yeah, [ring rust] is bullshit. Just like when people said Aldo was old. If Aldo is old then I’m old too because we have the same age [laughs].
“Casey Kenney is a young athlete, a tough athlete who was coming off wins and great fights, and Dominick was able to take the fight with his technique, experience, tactic and footwork. We’ve been studying to beat him for a while because he’s hard to get hit, hard to get taken down and submitted. It’s going to be decided on the small details, holes in the technique that we’re going to use in our advantage.”
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 269 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches at 6 p.m. ET, followed by the remaining undercard balance on ESPN2/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.