UFC Picks: Dillashaw vs. Cruz Fight Night 81 Predictions & Odds

Swinging Johnson

Saturday, January 2, 2016 9:35 PM GMT

Former bantamweight king Dominick Cruz will try to wrest his crown back from reigning champ T. J. Dillashaw on Sunday January 17th at UFC Fight Night 81. Let's look at what the UFC odds makers are offering on this championship tilt and cash in our UFC picks.

 

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UFC Pick: Cruz +130

Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

 

Dominick Cruz (20-1, 7 KO's, 1 Sub)
It is hard to fathom that Dominick Cruz last defended his bantamweight title over four years ago. The date was October 1st and the venue Washington, DC when Cruz defeated the indefatigable Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson who subsequently dropped down to the flyweight division. As anyone who has watched Johnson rule the 125 pound category with an iron fist and rise to the top of the mythical pound-for-pound best fighter on the planet rankings over the last few years then you can connect the dots and understand just how good Cruz was at that time. However a series of injuries prevented Cruz from defending his belt and he was ultimately stripped of the title after a lengthy absence.  

It took Cruz almost three years to step inside the Octagon again but when he did he made it count. Veteran Takeya Mizugaki  was chosen to be the litmus test for just how far Cruz had battled back from injury and the results were overwhelmingly positive. The Japanese top ten contender was tossed around like a ragdoll by Cruz who took Mizugaki to the mat immediately after the bell rang. The former champ used his superior speed and power to control the fight from the onset and ended it just a minute and one second after it began with a series of punches to the face of the defenseless Mizugaki. Cruz's dominating return manifested in a Performance of the Night bonus and a title shot with the reigning 135 pound king T.J. Dillashaw.

 

T.J. Dillashaw (12-2, 6 KO's, 3 Subs)
On October 9th, 2013 T.J. Dillashaw lost a split decision to Raphael Assuncao on his opponent's home turf of Barueri, Brazil. In a fight that may have gone the other way had it been held in the States those who bet Dillashaw as a -230 favorite in their UFC picks had to be throwing beer cans at the television after the decision was announced. It was not highway robbery by any means but many pundits scored the bout for Dillashaw and that proved to be a huge turnaround for bettors on both sides of that fight.

Nevertheless, the setback was short-lived as Dillashaw scored a unanimous decision over a tough out in Mike Easton only three months after his loss to Assuncao. But the title fight against then reigning champ Renan Barao put him on the map. Dillashaw was installed as a +475 underdog by the UFC odds makers and when the dust settled there was a new bantamweight champ with the strap around his waist. T.J. Dillashaw TKO'ed Barao as a stunned Sin City crowd looked on in disbelief. Dillashaw would go on to knock out talented tough guy Joe Soto and then starch Barao in a repeat performance in case anyone thought the first TKO was a fluke.

 

Betting Analysis
Both fighters have their roots in the ground attack which should make this a bit of a chess match. However, both can throw bombs as evidenced by their combined 13 KO's. The question becomes who can do it better and is Cruz the same elite fighter he once was? His inspiring and thoroughly dominating performance over Takeya Mizugaki proved he was healed from his injuries and could put away a game opponent but Mizugaki is by no means elite like theCruz +130 champion Cruz will meet on January 17th.

The knock on Cruz is obviously his inactivity while Dillashaw has been busting up any and all comers. However, Dominick Cruz is a complete master of the Octagon and as good as we believed Renan Baro to be, he is no Dominick Cruz. The former champ is an underdog as of this writing and I cannot help but want to grab the juice that the UFC oddsmakers are so generously giving me. Cruz is one of the finest tacticians and strategists in the MMA game today and his intelligence alone could tip the scales between these two supremely talented bantamweights. Though Cruz has been knocked down he has never been knocked out like Dillashaw. Expect this one to go to the scorecards with Cruz getting the nod and rightfully reclaiming his throne atop the 135 pound division.