Dominick Cruz vs Urijah Faber 3: Understanding Dominick Cruz’s fighting style and footwork (Part 3 0f 3)

Welcome to part 3 of the breakdown. If you missed part 2, go here.

If you missed part 1, go here.

Other Ways of Attacking

Feinting isn’t the only source of offensive output from Cruz’s end. He often executed the use of shifting. Shifting varies from fighter to fighter as they all tend to have their own unique variations in technique. With shifting, the fighter traverses the cage by stepping their rear foot forward. The way they do it varies with style. With Cruz, he often shifted forward extending out his hand to measure the distance while keeping Faber’s arms in check, then follows up with that looping power shot.

cruz shifting cross comp.gif

Note the use of angular head movement from Cruz’s end. He’s always dynamically moving the head laterally, constantly avoiding the center-line where shots can be fired at him.

Close Range

When it came to close range, Cruz would often disengage offensively on several occasions where the threat of grappling/clinching attempts were present.

cruz exits offensively comp.gif
Disengages offensively.

Steering Opponents into Traps

Cruz has a particularly good ability to escape the cage. He manipulates the opponents directions in order to move away safely. Cruz understands that his movement highly entices the opponent to advance forward. Knowing this, he constantly times that exact sequence he knows they will advance. He tags anyone willing to chase him into his trap.

Cruz steers opponents into punches comp.gif
Cruz hits a new position, the opponent tries to follow up, Cruz takes advantage and strikes.

Cruz often mentions in his interviews about his ability to steer you into his punches. This is one of the way he does it. He’ll hop step out at angles which usually allows him to ground himself in order to gain his footing first, then he’ll ready to strike opponents who are looking to pursue him. Opponents looking to follow up often get tagged before then can even gain their footing. He’s always taking advantage of opponents looking to play catch up to his new position.

Here’s another example of Cruz evading and punishing Faber’s forward movement.

cruz retreat and counter, follow up lateral movement.gif
Cruz moves back, it draws Faber into his trap, Cruz proceeds to fire lateral jabs while circling away from the cage.


Pressure You Don’t see

In interviews leading up to the fight, Cruz mentioned he would come out pressuring Faber. It’s hard to think Cruz  applies pressure considering the thought that evasive tendencies carry a lot of non-pressure-like connotations.

When you think about a pressure fighter, Daniel Cormier  comes to mind –a grindy fighter who’s constantly in your face looking to get on the inside to do damage instead of a fighter like Cruz who’s constantly evading. If we break away from those normal ideals of what pressure is and think in a different perspective, you can see that Cruz applies his own unique kind of passive pressure.

In this fight, he constantly fed Faber feints, a large quantity of them actually. He was always feeding Faber some kind of trap whether Cruz was moving back or moving forward. Everything that Cruz implements serves to efficiently and effectively pressure his opponent mentally to play into his next strategy. As a result, he’s constantly outputting vast amounts of slide stepping, feinting, and overall movement that allows him to land strikes coming forward or moving back. He’s unique type of fighter capable of applying offense while mobile in any direction.

Why Did I Miss This Stuff?

One of the main reasons why it’s so hard to register what Cruz is doing at first glance is because he throws a tremendous volume of feints so often that there’s so much to register. Cruz interprets all of this throughout the fight in a matter of split seconds and acts accordingly to each read and reaction.

A lot took place during this fight. Like Cruz’s knockdown on Faber.

cruz drops faber 2

We also saw the numerous scrambles, creative footwork and dynamics mixture of striking with wrestling. You’ll just have to go back to witness the art yourself but my hopes are that this paints a clearer story about a style that played out during the fight.

Compare and Contrast

Just a quick observation. Against T.J. Dillashaw, his offensive output forced Cruz to really play hard on the counter game. It was fascinating to see what comes out of his arsenal against different a style. He used a lot of excellent angular adjustments in conjunction with striking like his signature rear check hook against T.J. Dillashaw.

Against Faber, we saw that Faber was quite apprehensive approaching. He doesn’t quite have the variety T.J. brings when it comes to leading in fights, so against Cruz, we didn’t see some of the unique counters he used against T.J. It was more common to see Cruz dictating the offensive output against Faber.

Perspective on Style

Cruz’s style centers a lot around the use of a lot of lateral movement, feints and mixing his striking with wrestling to keep opponents guessing. Coupled with the in and out movement with intentions of avoiding strikes, it’s a recipe that yields effective results. One thing I appreciate about his offensive approach is that it provides him an extra layer of defense. By using feints, he can go on the attack on his terms and adapt accordingly. If the opponent tries to take him down, or counter, the feint will always be there to draw that reaction out, thereby allowing Cruz to defensively avoid those scenarios. Alternatively, if the opponent decides not to react to his feints, he’ll exploit their inactivity. It’s a style that adds defensive layers.

Final Note

Dominick Cruz is a great fighter, but everyone has their flaws and exploitable habits. I decided to hold off on some of the technical parts from Faber’s end so Tune in for the future where I’ll be taking elements from this fight, and all previous fights to provide a clear picture of what has worked against Cruz’s style.  We might perhaps get a stronger idea how a fighter can manage to fight a mobile fighter but until then, I’ll see you later.

If you liked this, please share with anyone curious about Dominick Cruz’s style. He deserves the credit for the craft he displays.

If you want to see other breakdowns of other fighters like Overeem, Conor McGregor, T.J. Dillashaw, and more, visit my home page to see the list of breakdown’s I’ve done.



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