TJ Dillashaw vs Dominick Cruz: The Truth About Their Style Differences and Flaws Part 1

TJ Dillashaw Vs Dominick Cruz –The Sword vs The Shield

More articles including a TJ and Cruz breakdown

TJ Dillashaw vs Dominick Cruz is right around the corner and there has been a lot of questions surrounding this fight. We’ve also seen our fair share of claims regarding TJ stealing Cruz’s style as well. We’re left asking ourselves many questions, such as, how do they match up against with one another? What kind of exploits are in their game and do they have the tools to take advantage of it? Lastly, is TJ really just a clone copy of what Dominick Cruz’s style? This article should clear things up and give you a better difference between these two.

Statistical Differences

Objectively speaking, after having studied several of their fights, they’re significantly different in their approach to the game. Just looking at their stats, it’s very obvious too. Dominick Cruz takes far less damage than anyone in the division with his high 76 percent Strike defense, although he does have a low rate for significant strikes landed per minute at 1.87.

On the other end of the scale, you have TJ Dillashaw who’s stats his his strikes landed per minute to be more than doubles Cruz’s output at 5.81 significant strikes landed per minute. I wrote two separate articles explaining how their fighting styles explain these numbers but I’ll shortly refresh a bit here in there in this piece.

I would suggest reading my breakdowns on Cruz and TJ to fully grasp this concepts from this article as I don’t fully explain certain principles. If you haven’t read them yet, that’s okay. I added a lot of refreshers to keep new readers in the loop.


Lets start with how they’re similar. They naturally switch stance a lot while moving in a neutral position. It’s very reminiscent of the Ali shuffle. They both can use it to disguise what angle they’re going to attack in. Not to mention, by moving the feet dynamically, it never gives the opponent a stationary target to plan an angle of attack against you.  It difficult to plan an attack when they’re constantly switching which side is the power side and which side is the weak side. The legendary Saenchai was well known for using this shuffling step as well (Ali was an inspiration to Saenchai too).

shuffle comps.gif
3 tacticians using the shuffle to keep the opponents guessing.

In similar fashion, they both use feints for relatively the same purposes. It’s usually used to bait simultaneous counters or to gauge a reaction. They may even share the similar approaches for feinting. For example, Cruz uses feints to read their reactions. When he senses they wont attack, he uses that timing to attack them. TJ has options to use this strategy as well from what he’s demonstrated.

couch feint similar.gif
The feint until they notice the opponents won’t attack. They then use that timing to attack back.


Shifting Similarities

Both Cruz and TJ even utilize the art of stance shifting while going on the attack. Like my previous pieces I wrote, they’re both capable of using the shifting escape tactic to stick and move. (Go back to previous articles if you’re curious about how the mechanics work).

cruz and TJ similar
Both use shifting to escape the pocket.


Darting Styles

Yes, they both even use darting but this is where they’re styles start to divide. Cruz uses a dart style more similar to Eddie Alvarez. Both Cruz and Alvarez use the dart to hit an angle to escape.

cuz and eddie dart.gif
Darting while escaping at an angle.

TJ will dart too but he actually prefers to continue his offensive output after hitting that new angle.

TJ dart 4.gif
TJ continues to dart after hitting a new angle.

Shifting Differences

Going back to shifting, Cruz generally likes to use shifting so he can stick and move. It’s more common to see him escape at an angle. Whereas TJ, he’s more inclined to continue his offense after shifting into a new angle. These technical differences serve them better for what they want to achieve in the cage. Cruz seeks to minimize opportunities for damage, while TJ looks to continue his attacks.

cruz in and out comp
Cruz shifting stance to escape to a new angle.
TJ wide power shifting.gif
TJ shifting stance to continue attacks at a new angle.

Evasive Differences

Both fighters are actually evasive, however, TJ likes to maintaining more of an erect stance when moving and keeping the push block up to stop any inward advancement, whereas Cruz has a strong tendency to bend at the waist and block when necessary. The bending allows him to move in various defensive angles although it may pose some risk. Another added benefit of Cruz bending is that he can effectively change levels to transition into takedowns in order to keep the opponent guessing whether he should attack or prepare for to stuff them.

cruz evades.gif
More likely to bend at the waist to create defense angles.
TJ push block 2.gif
Keeps the spine erect and maintains a push block distance.

The Flaws in TJ’s game.

Since TJ uses an open guard push block style, it may actually present an opening for strikes in the event an opponent tries bypass the blocking arm. TJ tends to use this after throwing kicks and evading. If Cruz can mange to close distance and bypass the stiff arm, he may mange to connect to the opening. (Firas Zahabi has spoken about this concept before and ways to bypass it, check it out).

As far as TJ is concerned, he’s got that strong tendency to pour it on. If you need a reminder, go watch that 27-hit Mortal Kombat combo he landed cleanly on Barao in his last fight. Granted, he had Barao stunned enough to pull it off.

TJ 27 hit combo.gif
Combos for days.

One of the things TJ needs to watch out for is getting to greedy pocket and trying to pull off as many shots as he can without making sure it’s safe enough to pour it on. There is no one perfect fighter who can stay on the inside and not absorb one shot eventually. TJ needs to be careful to fight on his terms by constantly creating his angles, manipulating the range and maintaining a safe rhythm. TJ had this issue in the early rounds of the rematch between Barao. His corner had to advise him to turn take turn it down a notch because he was getting caught too much.

TJ pocket pressure getting caught
TJ eats a shot trying to pressure.

The crazy thing about TJ and Cruz is that they’re constantly changing the stances. This means they’re constantly changing the dynamics of who has the angular advantage. They might end up trying to re-adjust their stances constantly just to keep up with what they’re trying to impose on one another.

How Cruz Can Take Advantage of Stance Changing

Thefact that Cruz is always changing his stance means it’s very possible that TJ might use footwork to move into Cruz’s weak side at the same time that Cruz might change his stance to get the power side instead. This might sound confusing, but in short, say you’re expecting to move where it’s safe, then suddenly it’s not safe. That’s pretty much the dangers of facing someone who constantly changing stances on you.

Lets look at a live example how this might work. TJ was fundamentally knocked out by this concept when Dodson applied it on him. Initially, you see that Dodson is in a mirrored stance against TJ (a stance where his lead foot meets their lead foot). One of the main principles of using the shifting cross is that you move far outside of the opponent’s weak side (far outside their lead foot where their attacks are limited).  What Dodson did was that he effectively shifted his stance by bringing his lead foot back. This allowed Dodson to strike at a steeper angle where TJ’s head would be.

TJ ko'ed by dodson slow mo.gif
Dodson moves his lead foot back to adjust his stance and lines his shot up with where the head will be.

This is important because it allowed Dodson to hit at that angle TJ usually tries to get to. If Dodson had not changed his stance, he would have had much more of a difficult time mechanically hitting that angle. The reason for this is because his cross would have had to extend across the body. Look at this example.

TJ shifting cross, low crouch, overhook.gif
Look at TJ’s much more refined shift where he goes even steeper towards the weak side. Note that Barao would have a very difficult time to reach that cross over where TJ’s head is.

If Barao had moved his lead foot out more laterally or into the opposite stance, it would have given him a much better angle to catch TJ. How does this relate to Cruz? Well, Cruz is the epitome of changing stances.

To be fair, that example of Dodson knocking down TJ is from a rather old fight. TJ has actually made good adjustments with how he uses his shifting cross now. He hits an even steeper angle now by adjusting little footwork details that I have already explained in the last TJ breakdown I did. A question still exist regarding this, can Cruz still hit that angle with with his own stance switching?

This is the end of part 1, for even more flaws and to see how Mighty Mouse bested Cruz, go to part 2 here: TJ Dillashaw vs Dominick Cruz part 2


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