The series between UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz and arch-rival Urijah Faber is even at one apiece. Faber submitted Cruz in a featherweight title fight when both were competing for the World Extreme Cagefighting organization. Cruz evened the score at UFC 132, retaining his title via unanimous decision.
They’re set to fight in Las Vegas in July, but Cruz got a big leg up on Faber last week on “The Ultimate Fighter.” Cruz and Faber are serving as the reality show’s coaches and Cruz made a tactical decision that stunned Faber and made the Team Faber fighters look bad.
After James Vick defeated Daron Cruickshank on Friday, Cruz was in control of the picks. As the coach of the winning team, he had the ability to set the match for this week’s live fight on FX.
Cruz selected Justin Lawrence, who was his top pick and the early favorite to win the show. Then, instead of picking someone from Team Faber, Cruz put the onus on Faber and told Faber to pick. Faber asked his team who was ready to fight and not one man responded.
UFC president Dana White ultimately threw it back to Cruz, who picked veteran Cristiano Marcello to fight Lawrence. The ploy by Cruz was a big win, both for him in the ongoing mind games with Faber as well as for Team Cruz.
Lawrence knows he’s going to be a target, but Cruz’s maneuver had to increase his confidence in himself.
“It’s definitely more pressure,” Lawrence said of being chosen first, in quotes released by the UFC. “A lot of people expect a lot more from me now. All I can do is go in there and fight. I’ve been fighting since I was six years old.”
Marcello is a black belt, but he hasn’t shown much of a standup game in the past. If Lawrence is able to keep the fight standing, he should cruise to victory.
That could be easier said than done against a guy with 15 fights under his belt, but Lawrence (3-0) insists he’s ready.
“It’s exciting, nerve-wracking,” he said. “He’s a very good grappler, so I really want to try to stay on my feet and make him feel uncomfortable as much as possible. I don’t want this to turn into a jiu-jitsu match, because I know that’s his strength. Dom’s crew has been doing a phenomenal job in training and preparing me and I’m pumped.”