Cruz faced Garbrandt last December at UFC 207, and lost the bout via unanimous decision. The result sent a shockwave throughout MMA, as not too many folks were predicting Garbrandt would defeat Cruz. After all, not only is Cruz one of the most unorthodox and talented fighters in the sport, but he also hadn’t been defeated since 2007.
Well, fast forward to today, and Rivera is booked to fight Cruz at UFC 219, December 30th. The rising bantamweight recently spoke to Bloody Elbow about the fight, and while discussing how he’s going to prepare for unique style of Cruz, Rivera said this:
“I have great training partners who can mimic anybody and great coaches. That’s all I need,” he said.
“Cruz was only the good wrestler. He never fought somebody that could box really well. Now you got someone who’s as good of a wrestler, and now it’s all about the standup — who has the better boxing and kickboxing. Garbrandt did compared to Cruz, and he opened up; he showed the world what Cruz wasn’t good at.”
That’s an interesting take on it, as Cruz has received a ton of praise over the years for his striking abilities. That said, there’s no question that Garbrandt has showcased a remarkable stand-up pedigree in his UFC run, particularly in his bout with Cruz.
The Cruz – Rivera announcement also surprised a lot of folks, since Cruz had said he wanted to fight the winner of Garbrandt – TJ Dillashaw. When Rivera was asked for his reaction, upon finding out Cruz had agreed to fight him, he stated:
“F-ck yeah. I am super shocked. I think the biggest thing was they must’ve gave him something good, or they told him that’s the only way. I don’t know. I heard that he wanted to take the fight, which I was super surprised (about)…”
Fair enough. Cruz – Rivera has all the makings of being an outstanding fight. It’s also a huge, huge, bout for both men. The winner will very likely lock up a title shot.