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HENRY CEJUDO VS. DOMINICK CRUZ

Bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo is on a mission to substantiate his claim to being the greatest combat sports athlete of all-time and has set his sights on taking out the legends that preceded him as a means of making his case. The COVID-19 pandemic and its travel restrictions knocked former featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo out of their scheduled bout, however, another ex-titleholder has stepped in, eager to face “Triple C” in hopes of making a little history of his own.

Competing for the first time in since losing the bantamweight strap at UFC 207, Dominick Cruz will enter the cage and stand opposite Cejudo with designs on claiming the title for a third time. While Cruz is one of a handful of athletes to win UFC gold twice in the same division, only Hall of Famer Randy Couture has managed to accomplish the feat on three separate occasions, and if Cruz can replicate the efforts of “The Natural,” he could very well join him in the pantheon of all-time greats, if he’s not already there.

What makes this matchup so compelling is the same thing that made many people question the pairing when it was first announced.

Cruz hasn’t fought since December 2016 when he was beaten by Cody Garbrandt in the co-main event of the UFC’s final show of that year. While he’s remained ever-present in the community as a result of his role as an analyst on UFC broadcasts, injuries have resulted in a few false starts and ultimately kept him sidelined for the last three-plus years.

But this isn’t anything new for the San Diego-based standout. He missed nearly three full years and was stripped of his title in the time following his victory over Demetrious Johnson, came back, and absolutely trucked divisional stalwart Takeya Mizugaki. He then went another 16 months between appearances, only to return and dethrone TJ Dillashaw, who many believed was poised to rule the division for years.

For Cejudo, who enters on a five-fight winning streak and coming off back-to-back stoppage victories in championship fights last year, it’s another opportunity to defeat another former champion — one whose sterling record (22-2) is unfortunately overshadowed by the injuries that have prevented him from building any real momentum since matriculating to the UFC nine years ago with the rest of his WEC colleagues.

The bantamweight division is flush with talent and there will be a non-stop cavalcade of worthy challengers ready to face whoever emerges victorious in this one. It feels like the 135-pound weight class is on the precipice of having its real breakthrough moment in the UFC and this is the starting point, so buckle up and enjoy.


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