At one point in time former bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz’s long awaited return to action against Takeya Mizugaki appeared set to serve as the co-main event of UFC 178 under Jon Jones Vs Daniel Cormier, but as the card has been reshuffled a number of times the bout has ended up as the featured prelim instead.
UFC 178 is now headlined by a flyweight title fight between Demetrious Johnson and Chris Cariaso, while a newly announced lightweight encounter between Donald Cerrone and Eddie Alvarez co-main events. It’s not surprising that a bout between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier has been set for the main card, and Tim Kennedy Vs Yoel Romero is a meaningful fight at the business end of the middleweight division.
Given that Cruz is unbeaten in 10 fights and only vacated his belt due to his prolonged injury woes you’d have thought his comeback bout would have ensured he’d secure the final spot on the PPV portion of the card, but instead it’s been handed to a woman’s bantamweight encounter as Cat Zingano makes her return against Amanda Nunes.
Cruz could have taken that personally, but instead he says he’s just relieved to be back as he approaches almost three years since he last stepped into the Octagon due to career threatening knee issues.
“FS1 is in 90 million households,” Cruz told MMAfighting’s Ariel Helwani. “It did 735k viewers on my teammate Ross Pearson’s fight. At this point with the last two-plus years off, I’m just pumped to FINALLY be in there fighting again, period.”
He has a point about the number of viewers. Funnily enough, Cruz’s biggest rival Urijah Faber actually specifically requested to have his last fight with Alex Caceras at UFC 175 feature on the preliminary card on FOX Sports 1 since it would get him more exposure than being on the PPV card.
It proved to be a shrewd move from Faber as the prelims drew a million viewers compared to the 550,000 who ended up buying the PPV.
Unquestionably though after all that he’s been through just stepping into the Octagon at last will be a victory for Cruz, though given the kind of competitor he is he won’t be happy unless he defeats Mizugaki, which will be no easy feat against an always tough veteran who’s unbeaten in his last five UFC bouts.
It’s a tall order for Cruz after such a long time out of the sidelines, though given how talented he is you’d certainly not want to rule him out of emerging with his hand raised.