Mailbag: Dominick Cruz’s shrewd move on ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ embarrasses Urijah Faber and team
The series between UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz and arch-rival Urijah Faber is even at one apiece. Faber submitted Cruz in a featherweight title fight when both were competing for the World Extreme Cagefighting organization. Cruz evened the score at UFC 132, retaining his title via unanimous decision.
They’re set to fight in Las Vegas in July, but Cruz got a big leg up on Faber last week on “The Ultimate Fighter.” Cruz and Faber are serving as the reality show’s coaches and Cruz made a tactical decision that stunned Faber and made the Team Faber fighters look bad.
After James Vick defeated Daron Cruickshank on Friday, Cruz was in control of the picks. As the coach of the winning team, he had the ability to set the match for this week’s live fight on FX.
Cruz selected Justin Lawrence, who was his top pick and the early favorite to win the show. Then, instead of picking someone from Team Faber, Cruz put the onus on Faber and told Faber to pick. Faber asked his team who was ready to fight and not one man responded.
UFC president Dana White ultimately threw it back to Cruz, who picked veteran Cristiano Marcello to fight Lawrence. The ploy by Cruz was a big win, both for him in the ongoing mind games with Faber as well as for Team Cruz.
Lawrence knows he’s going to be a target, but Cruz’s maneuver had to increase his confidence in himself.
“It’s definitely more pressure,” Lawrence said of being chosen first, in quotes released by the UFC. “A lot of people expect a lot more from me now. All I can do is go in there and fight. I’ve been fighting since I was six years old.”
Marcello is a black belt, but he hasn’t shown much of a standup game in the past. If Lawrence is able to keep the fight standing, he should cruise to victory.
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That could be easier said than done against a guy with 15 fights under his belt, but Lawrence (3-0) insists he’s ready.
“It’s exciting, nerve-wracking,” he said. “He’s a very good grappler, so I really want to try to stay on my feet and make him feel uncomfortable as much as possible. I don’t want this to turn into a jiu-jitsu match, because I know that’s his strength. Dom’s crew has been doing a phenomenal job in training and preparing me and I’m pumped.”
• The one thing I didn’t like about the qualifying round of TUF was the dead silence on the air as the fighters competed. There were no teams and little reaction from the audience. White said he agreed that it was an issue and said, “I assure you, that will be fixed next season.”
• There may not be a fight all year I’m looking forward to seeing more than the co-main event of UFC 147, the heavyweight match between former champions “Fracturing” Frank Mir and Cain Velasquez. It’s a long way between now and May 26, when the fight will be held in Las Vegas, but my early choice is Velasquez. He’s got the better wrestling and cardio, which should enable him to negate Mir’s distinct jiu-jitsu edge.
• Bellator needs to find a better night to air its fights than on Friday, when it’s competing directly against the UFC. There is always a ton of competition from other events, but it doesn’t make much sense to go head-to-head with the industry leader. Find a different day or time to give your fighters the most exposure possible. According to MMA Junkie, last week’s show attracted just 108,000 viewers, the second-lowest ever.
• When does Ronda Rousey fight again?
• If Tito Ortiz retires after fighting Forrest Griffin at UFC 148 in July, he ought to be inducted immediately into the UFC Hall of Fame. Few athletes have played as significant a role as Ortiz in building both mixed martial arts and the UFC.
Hi Kevin, I love your column and wanted to chime in on this Nick Diaz defense claim of marijuana being prescribed by his doctor. I am sick of professional athletes who get caught taking steroids (like Chael Sonnen) or smoking weed claiming it was for medical reasons. Give me a break. They are modern day warriors, right? So why don’t they act like real men and own up to it, instead of trying to make up excuses like they are in elementary school. Nick marking no on the form you mentioned in your article proves right there he tried to pull a fast one on the commission.
Thanks, Christian. I can’t read Nick’s mind and figure what he was thinking. He does have a card for medical marijuana use that was issued in California. Had he taken the trouble to apply for a therapeutic use exemption in Nevada, where medical marijuana is also legal, he wouldn’t be facing the suspension that is staring at him.
I agree with your opinion about Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. I think he should retire. He used to be exciting, but that’s been so long ago, I can barely remember. I’m sick of listening to him whine. If he retires, I, for one, won’t shed a tear.
Rampage is a sensitive guy and he’s very stung by criticism. I’m not sure he’s aware of how much harm he’s doing to his legacy, but I’m guessing there are many more out there like you ready to jump off the bandwagon.
Regarding the Jackson debacle, what an up-and-down, hot-and-cold relationship Jackson has had with Zuffa. Other than the comments White first made when Jackson pushed the Rashad fight because of the “A-Team,” Zuffa has always promoted and stood by Rampage. Heading into UFC 144 in Japan last month, Rampage was praising everything Zuffa had done to help him and how he was going to continue fighting for them in hopes of getting “his belt” back. I can’t help but wonder if it’s sour grapes or if Jackson’s ear could have been caught by a Japanese promoter. I think it’s great that Jackson is upset with his opponents and wants slugfests. What fan doesn’t want to hear a fighter that wants to do some toe-to-toe slinging? Mauricio “Shogun” Rua is a great matchup for him and I’d like to see him fight Brandon Vera or Thiago Silva. Honestly, though, other than those guys and maybe Alex Gustafsson, fighting the Top 10 guys at light heavyweight means you are fighting primarily wrestlers. That is right in line with Rampage’s last five bouts.
Long Island, N.Y.
I have an open mind toward Rampage and if he brought forward legitimate complaints, I’d support him. But complaining he’s fighting wrestlers? That’s very, very weak. I agree with you, Jon. I love slugfests and I’d like to see one, too. This is MMA, though, not boxing or kick boxing. If Rampage wants to guarantee his opponent will stand and throw with him, go into one of those sports. He comes off looking poorly, though, when he complains about the style of his opponents.
“I have been able to prove many of my doubters wrong over the course of the last 12 months. Some said I couldn’t submit a legend, and I did that. Some said I couldn’t take a punch, and I did that. Now some are saying that I will have trouble against someone who knows me so well. They are wrong. Wait until they see what I do on April 21.” – UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, who fights arch rival Rashad Evans on April 21 at UFC 145 in Atlanta.
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