Long-time bantamweight king Dominick Cruz is slated to defend his crown against Cody Garbrandt this Saturday at UFC 207 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Does the 25-year-old slugger have the mettle to give Cruz problems?

Garbrandt has unholy power in his hands: He has finished four of his five UFC wins via knockout. Before entering the big leagues, Garbrandt finished all five of his fights via knockout. Not only are his hands leaden, but Garbrandt’s punches are quick and he mixes up his angles keenly. His overhand right is his primary weapon. Dominick Cruz has mixed it up with the who’s who of bantamweight, but Garbrandt possesses more venom in his hands than any fighter Cruz has faced thus far in his UFC career.

Elusive, hypnotizing footwork is Cruz’s signature asset as a fighter. The champion has never been knocked out in his 23-fight MMA career; and he’s avoided a ridiculous 76% of incoming strikes since joining the UFC. He avoids getting pinned up against the fence with bouncy, skirting movement; and masterfully maneuvers his way into advantageous boxing positions from which he can dart in and out without receiving fire. Rarely is Cruz in danger — he refuses to be put in dangerous positions altogether. His ringcraft is unparalleled in MMA.

Garbrandt is not merely a plodding brawler. He’s mobile and employs decent ring-cutting techniques himself. Setting up his big right against Cruz, however, will prove to be a baffling challenge.

Both fighters should be content to settle the match on the feet, but Cruz has the benefit of stellar wrestling to mix up with his striking. Cruz has landed 52 takedowns in his UFC tenure; whereas none of Garbrandt’s UFC opponents have even attempted a takedown against him. Perhaps Cruz will be the first UFC fighter to gauge Garbrandt’s takedown defense and overall wrestling chops — granted shooting in for a careless double-leg against a powerhouse like Garbrandt is not advisable. Expect Cruz to use his wrestling shrewdly and patiently as to avoid getting clocked for his advance.

No bantamweight is safe from Garbrandt’s power. If he connects cleanly on Cruz, we could have ourselves a new champion. That said, I expect a clinical dissection from Cruz, who will be especially risk-averse given Garbrandt’s power.

Prediction: Dominick Cruz via unanimous decision

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