Jimmie Rivera will look to get his first shot at UFC Gold when he takes on Dominick Cruz in a title eliminator next month.
The two will close out the year on December 30th at UFC 219 in a pivotal bantamweight match-up.
This will be Cruz’s first fight since losing his title to now former champion Cody Garbrandt and Rivera feels that Cruz is not the same fighter he once was.
“I don’t think he’s the same Dominick Cruz that he was a couple of years back,” Rivera said. “He’s slowed down a lot with his movement and stuff like that.”
“You can tell in his recent fights that his movement slows down after the first round. I don’t think he has that same pep in his step like he did five years ago.”
Cruz has been plagued with injuries throughout his career, undergoing multiple surgeries and has been most recently been dealing with planter fasciitis. With a heavy footwork approach, Rivera feels that Cruz has put too much unnecessary pressure on his feet.
“I think his footwork is unnecessary,” Rivera explained. “It’s very unnecessary movement. All that unnecessary movement has had an effect on his body. I think it’s dumb but it’s his style and that’s the way he is.”
TJ Dillashaw was crowned the new bantamweight champion this past Saturday at UFC 217 when he knocked out Cody Garbrandt in the 2nd round.
Rivera shared his thoughts on the fight and was happy to see Cody get knocked off his ‘high horse.’
“I wanted TJ to win,” Rivera said. “I thought he’d win by decision, I didn’t think he’d knock him out.”
“I think Cody got caught with that hook. He didn’t see it coming and maybe his emotions got the best of him because he almost finished TJ in the first round.”
“TJ was really trying to set up his kicks and his high kick and I guess he didn’t see it coming. He got caught with it and then TJ threw that 2, 3 and Cody didn’t see that hook coming at all.”
With TJ beating Cody, Cody beating Cruz and Cruz beating TJ, it’s really anyone’s ball game in the ultra competitive bantamweight division.
However, Rivera feels Cruz’s time is done and looks to prove that he is part of the new wave come December 30th.
“I think he’s tough, I think he was a champ for a reason but there’s a new generation coming in and I’m a part of it. He’s coming to the end of his career.”
And Rivera is not all too convinced with Cruz’s game as he feels he’s quite one dimensional.
“I just think he’s a wrestler, that’s it. He’s a very good wrestler and I think that’s his biggest strength.”
“Obviously in the Cody fight it didn’t work out well. The Cruz versus TJ fight was very close and he won because of wrestling, that’s purely it.”
With TJ Dillashaw looking to chase a second title at flyweight versus Demetrious Johnson, many fear that a bantamweight title defense won’t happen for a while.
For Rivera, beating Cruz and taking some time off doesn’t sound like a bad idea. He is willing to wait.
“I think if I beat Cruz, I can finally go on my honeymoon and I don’t mind TJ fighting Demetrious Johnson first then fighting him after it,” Rivera explained.
“If they fought I probably wouldn’t fight TJ until July, August and I’m kind of happy about that because my wife and I have been pushing our honeymoon off.”
First, Rivera has to get past former champion Dominick Cruz who has never been knocked out in his career. While Rivera would love to be the first one to knock Cruz out, he sees this fight going the distance.
“I want to get the knockout but I see it going to a decision especially him running the whole time, being on his ice skates and just trying to run away from me. I can see it going to a decision but I want the knockout.”