One of Cruz’s favorite go-to approaches were his cross into a retreating lead hook. He actually managed to connect with it a few solid times and used accurate distancing to ensure he escaped out of the counter window.
Unfortunately, his tendency to use this caught up with him because Cody was able to counter by connecting his shot the very moment Cruz brought his head back to the centerline.
This very habit Cruz had of pursuing the powerhand, into a lead hook cost him a lot. We’ve never seen Cruz get caught in such a fashion before. In fact, it’s not typical of Cruz to attempt multiple shots when in the pocket. He’s been known to throw one shot whilst proceeding to exit out, but his inclination to push the fight had us seeing him throw more volume ever since his fight with T.J. Dillashaw. The punishes Garbrandt scored against Cruz’s habit became the most defining moments of the fight which earned him such a great lead on the scorecards.
Cruz and Garbrandt had mixed levels of consistency when it came to using kicks. Cruz mentions, he didn’t set up his kicks and attributed some of his damage due to it.
We would see Garbrandt landing counters off of kicks. Cruz had some success countering kicks and building offense from his kicks by following up on them.
The most prominent moment from kicks came from the cut Cruz sustained from a shin to the head. Broadcasters erroneously suggested the cut came from a headbutt, but Cruz later confirmed it was due to a head kick.
Cruz’s counters are some of the finest you see because of the way he moves away at angles while throwing his strikes. Since he was constantly pressing the offense, we didn’t get to see much those beautiful counters he typically uses when playing a defensive game.
We did get to see him use his lateral jab though. It’s one of the tools in his craft he knows how to consistently land against opponents.
He moves laterally while throwing the jab. This lets him bypass linear counters while keeping his hips away from bad positional threats. Keep in mind he uses a hop-step versus a conventional step because it allows him to move longer distances.
Garbrandt showed one brief moment of shutting this down by throwing a low kick. Since Cruz is in motion, blocking a kick isn’t an option, so kicking him while he throws a lateral jab can cut off his movement. Garbrandt didn’t consistently exploit this, but he showed it’s effectiveness.
Overall, we’re still seeing many of the same habits Garbrandt had displayed in the past like his cartwheel kick, short lead hook counters, and his habit of throwing his 2-3 combo (old habits covered from previous write-ups). If he continues to reign victorious, I’ll be around to keep note of new habits that develop.
Interestingly enough, Cruz admittedly knew the dangers of approaching as he mentions in the post-fight conference that his constant tendency to enter the pocket and play offense meant it put him at risk of exchanges. He even recognized the fact that he had played into Garbrandt’s game of bringing the fight where he wanted. Cruz reasoning for all this was for the sake of pushing the pace in the name of entertainment value, although Garbrandt’s constant taunting could have also been another motivation.
Garbrandt did a great job by reducing the fight to where he had the edge. When shorter punches, faster strikes, meant to most, Garbrandt was there to deliver. He showed he was much more than what Cruz painted him to be and showed the world that he’s more than a wilder puncher. One thing we learned that day was that Cruz can push the offense, but if he gets greedy in the pocket looking to find more punches in volume, he risk playing a game Garbrandt has advantages in.
Cruz is a very intelligent fighter who’s certainly capable of making changes. These type of fighters are some of the most dangerous because they come back ensuring their mistakes are corrected. Could a rematch between Cruz and Garbrandt tell a different story? Only time will tell us.
For previous works on other fighters from Conor McGergor, Stephen Thompson, and others, visit my homepage for the list of various breakdowns.