COMMENTARY | Injured bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz will be paying careful attention to the historic women's title fight between 135-pounders Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche on Saturday at UFC 157 in Anaheim, Calif.
But it's the event's other bantamweight fight between Urijah Faber and Ivan Menjivar that he'll have an even closer eye on, Cruz said Monday.
"The card is pretty stacked, and I'm looking forward to it, but there's nothing that stands out other than that 135-pound fight that I'm really interested in," he said. "I'm watching them because they are in my division. You've got to just watch and see what kind of tricks are being used at my weight class. That's the fight I am looking to watching.
"At the same time, I'm watching the ladies' fight because they are making history. They are going to be the first-ever 135 champion. That's historical, and it's a big deal."
Both Faber and Menjivar are ranked in the top 10 of the UFC's bantamweight rankings at Nos. 3 and 10, respectively.
Cruz, who beat Faber in 2011 to become the promotion's first champion in the weight class, believes his rival will come out the victor Saturday.
"Speed is going to be the biggest problem to deal with for Menjivar with Faber, I believe," he said. "Faber is going to want a one-punch strike, which he does very well - and he explodes with it, and I think that is going to give Menjivar trouble.
"But more than anything, it's going to be the grappling pace. Faber can get a hold of you and force Menjivar to grapple with him. I think his pace is just going to be a little too scrambly, a little too heavy for Menjivar to deal with. Menjivar is going to end up on his back holding Faber in his guard, and Faber's going to be beating him up. "
Menjivar is no pushover. The "Pride of El Salvador" has a 25-9 record with nine knockouts, 10 submissions, and loads of experience against top-quality opponents.
Faber owns the head-to-head advantage, topping Menjivar in 2006 via disqualification due to an illegal kick in the second round. The former WEC champion is 26-6 with seven knockouts and 14 submissions.
The winner could be in line to fight interim champ Renan Barão if Cruz is unavailable. Another option is to fight for top-contender status against either Brad Pickett or Mike Easton, who fight on April 6 at UFC on Fuel TV 9.
As for Faber, Cruz says there is no love lost between the two-time combatants and former "The Ultimate Fighter Live" coaches.
After all, it's Faber who represents the lone loss in Cruz's 19-1 record.
"There's always going to be a rivalry between Faber and I because we both have that in us," Cruz said. "We both are competitive and we both are hard-headed competitive. We don't want to lose. I hate losing more than I enjoy winning. I mean, I despise it, the feeling of it. I do everything in my possibility to make sure that's not an option.
"Me and Faber, are we friends? No. Do we hate each other? No. I've said that before. We are just very competitive individuals, and we refuse to lose to one another, so there is always going to be a rivalry there."
But that's not the fight UFC president Dana White is preparing for just yet.
White stated Saturday that he hopes to unify the bantamweight belt this summer. Cruz hopes so as well, but he isn't putting a timeframe on his recovery from knee surgery.
"I'm pulling back the reins on myself right now," he said. "It's really hard because everyone wants to know the same thing I do: When am I going to be ready to go? Everybody is as impatient and anxious as I am, and that's the hardest part. I'm feeling the same way as the fans. All the questions the media wants answers to, I want answers to. But I don't have that answer. Time is the only thing that will give that answer, and it's an unfortunate truth."
It's been nearly two years and a pair of knee surgeries since Cruz last fought, and he only received clearance to begin running last week.
His next steps, he said, are hitting pads and getting in shape, adding that he remains ahead of his therapy goals, and meets with a doctor every six to eight weeks to assess his progress.
So while the Cruz-Barão matchup remains in limbo, the division rolls on. And it continues Saturday.
Paul Putignano lives in Southern California, where he has covered mixed martial arts and a wide array of sports across the Greater Los Angeles area. His work has been published in a variety of newspapers and online publications.