As long as Cruz remains on track rehabbing from a devastating knee injury, the two could meet as soon as this summer, following Barão’s win over Michael McDonald in London on Saturday.
“Hopefully Cruz is healing up well and we can do that fight,” said UFC president Dana White when asked what was next for Barão. “That's the fight I want to do and hopefully we can do that this summer.”
Cruz wants nothing more than to get back in the Octagon, and there is no one that he’d rather face than Barão, the man that has been getting all the attention while Cruz and his belt sit on the sidelines, watching, waiting, assessing… formulating a plan of attack.
Cruz has remained busy during his down time as a part-time analyst on Fuel TV, and the way he broke down the Barão vs. McDonald fight – just minutes after its conclusion – was like a skilled surgeon wielding a scalpel.
“What I was noticing was the way McDonald chose to fight Barão,” began Cruz. “It was pretty much the same problems that I thought Barão was gonna give him problems with, and that is, he can't take down Barão and that gives Barão more chances to win.
“On top of that, he was always looking for the power shots, he wasn't looking to set up the power shots. He was looking to counter with them or force them.
“The biggest key (in this fight for Barão) was that,” he continued. “It was being able to dictate the range, stay on the outside, be patient and defend. Defense and takedowns are what won this fight for Barão.”
Being so adept at dismantling his opponents’ fighting styles is just one element of what makes Cruz such a dominant champion. What he does with that information is another key.
Not only can Cruz quickly tear down fighting styles, he has an uncanny ability to know what about his own style will work against the fighting style of his opponent.
“I'll tell you, the difference (Barão fighting me as opposed to McDonald) is I fight different than anybody else,” stated Cruz. “I'm not gonna stand in front of you, I'm not just looking to counter you, and I'm mixing things up.
“On top of that, you take away range with angles. That beats range every day of the week. And I can wrestle. I'm gonna wrestle this guy. I'm not just gonna stand in front of him and strike the whole time. I'm gonna mix it up and keep him guessing.
“Feints ruin the entire game of Barão in my opinion. You take away the range by taking away the jab.”
Cruz is chomping at the bit to step into the Octagon with Barão. Breaking a fighter down on film and then tearing him apart in the cage, that is what Cruz does. That is what makes him the champion he is. That is what he relishes; you can see it in the depth of his eyes.
“These are all things that I understand and I'm gonna break this down in my head, just like I do for you folks (on Fuel TV), when I fight Barão,” Cruz concluded. “And he's gonna be confused when gets in there looking for me.”