The four men in the UFC flyweight tournament have glittering records, but they'd be a bit more glittering had they been able to avoid bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz. Three of the four men in the field -- Joseph Benavidez, Demetrious Johnson and Ian McCall -- have already fought, and lost to, Cruz.
Their records are glittering as is. They're 40-6 with 27 finishes. Subtract the two losses by Benavidez to Cruz and the ones by Johnson and McCall and they'd be 40-2.
Cruz spoke to Cagewriter on Wednesday to give his thoughts on the tournament and the fighters, particularly the three men he's faced.
Benavidez will fight Yasuhiro Urushitani and Johnson will take on McCall Friday (Saturday in Australia) at Allphones Arena in Sydney, Australia, on the UFC on FX 2 card.
Urushitani, 35, is a former Shooto champion who is 19-4-6. Cruz said he knows the least about him.
"The UFC has the best fighters in the world, so I would assume since he's not fighting in the UFC that he hasn't been facing top-level guys," Cruz said. "Against that level of competition, that will hurt."
Cruz defeated Benavidez twice. He beat him first via unanimous decision at WEC 42 on Aug. 9, 2009, in a bout declared Fight of the Night. They then rematched for the WEC title and Cruz pulled out a split decision at WEC 50 on Aug. 18, 2010.
Cruz said Benavidez is exceptionally well-rounded.
"What makes Joe a tough opponent is that he's one of the few people who pieces together long combinations, with power and with takedowns," Cruz told Cagewriter in a telephone interview. "He also defends the takedown well and he's one of the few people who's got great submissions, great wrestling and great standup. He's a well-rounded fighter. He's got the full package. He's just a tough guy to fight, and he's hungry."
Cruz beat Johnson in his last outing, retaining the bantamweight title by winning all five rounds in a high-quality match on Oct. 1 at UFC Live in Washington, D.C. Cruz said he expects Johnson-McCall to be Fight of the Night on Friday.
He raved about both men and, though he picked McCall, said he wouldn't be shocked if Johnson came out on top.
"They're both dynamic, well-rounded, very good fighters," the champ said. "Stylistically, how Demetrious comes out and fights Ian is going to be the key to that fight. The big reason why I beat these guys the way that I did is that I game-planned them. I can change my style according to the way a specific person fights. I had to change my style against all of those guys, Benavidez, Demetrious and Ian. I give the edge to Ian in terms of power, but I give the edge in speed and striking to Demetrious. I'll take Ian in that fight because I think he can take Demetrious down and control him on the ground."
Both opening-round fights are three-rounders, but the UFC has announced there will be a "sudden victory" round if either bout is tied after three in order to produce a winner.
Despite that, Cruz said he thought all four men would lay it all on the line during the three rounds in order to get the win and predicted they wouldn't be concerned about saving something for a potential fourth.
"I think they'll just go balls to the wall," Cruz said. "You never hold back. I know when I'm fighting, if it's a five-rounder, I train for seven. If it's a three-rounder, I'll train for five, and I think they'll be the same way so they can be ready to sprint to the finish."