LOS ANGELES, CA – On this week’s “UFC Tonight” we break down the biggest fights in this weekend’s UFC ON FOX 5 mega-card. Plus, UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz provides an exclusive interview for the first time since his latest surgery. We’ve got a medical examination of the injury to Dominick Cruz and a doctor’s take on how the UFC can fix this injury epidemic. There’s discouraging news on the potential super fight between GSP and Anderson Silva, plus an update on a potential Barao/McDonald fight for the interim title.
UFC TONIGHT Analyst Kenny Florian on UFC ON FOX 5: “Are you kidding me? This is a dream card. I am really excited about this. But really there is a title belt on the line, Benson Henderson, the defending champion, and Nate Diaz, a high-volume boxer. Both of these guys like to get after it. Diaz likes to go forward and pressure his opponent.”
Florian on how Benson Henderson is training differently for Nate Diaz than he did for Frankie Edgar: “I had a chance to speak with John Crouch, Henderson’s head coach, and they welcome the change. Fighting a guy like Edgar was hard because he likes to get in and out. With Diaz there is no chasing, he will come to you and they love it.”
Florian on Benson Henderson vs. Nate Diaz: “Both of these guys are very similar fighters, but go about it in very different ways. They are both southpaws. Benson Henderson likes to switch stances, but this is a southpaw fighter who is good at kicking your legs and he is going to use this against Nate Diaz. Henderson throws very short punches in the clinch. He has the best takedown percentage in lightweight division; he has excellent ground and pound, excellent on the ground and a great guillotine game. Henderson does his best work in the clinch, he loves to land those short elbows and he mixes up so well. Nate Diaz needs to fight Henderson on the outside. He loves to establish your range and he is a high volume striker. You have to watch out for that reach. He has a great jab and will fight you on the outside. Diaz is really great at keeping his feet in the right place where he can hit you and avoid being hit back. That is what makes him one of the most dangerous fighters in the division. Diaz is going to be a tough match for anyone in the division and these two are really going to put on a great fight on Saturday night.”
Florian’s predictions for Benson Henderson vs. Nate Diaz: “This is a battle between two southpaws, two of the best in the world. I think Henderson is going to get it done. It is not going to be easy. He is going to work hard, but he is going to get the win here.”
Florian’s predictions on Shogun Rua vs. Alexander Gustafsson: “You truly have a MMA legend in Rua and the young gun in Gustafsson, who uses a lot of footwork to get in and get out. He is going to need to use that. He is excellent on the ground. Rua is definitely going to have the advantage on the ground over Gustafsson. And Gustafsson is going to really have to use his reach if he wants to beat Rua. In a different fight we saw that great footwork can give Rua some challenges and I think Gustafsson is going to do that.”
Florian’s predictions on BJ Penn vs. Rory MacDonald: “This is such a great fight everyone talks about. MacDonald is going to be the real big thing and BJ Penn has been there and he has been the big thing. BJ Penn has so much experience, great on the ground, heavy handed. But, Rory is going to have to use his size advantage and his reach and he is going to have to avoid the very dangerous submissions of BJ Penn. However, BJ Penn has always struggled at 170 and against the elite Rory MacDonald; I think Rory will get the win here. But, it is not going to be easy. BJ Penn will be very dangerous early on.”
Florian’s predictions for Mike Swick vs. Matt Brown: “This is a very interesting fight. Both these guys like to go forward, and are very aggressive. But I think the quickness of Swick is going to be the difference here, but he has to be careful for Brown.”
UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz on what happened with his knee: “First and foremost, I want to thank the UFC for the support up to this point - Dana, Lorenzo and the Fertitta brothers. I was doing what I was allowed to do. I was on a good comeback, right on schedule. But, apparently it just happened. I was training and I found out the hard way that the cadaver tendon wasn’t as strong as at should have been at that point. It got weak and it failed because it didn’t take to my body as well as it should have. I was in my brace when it occurred. I was doing everything I was allowed to. The cadaver didn’t take to my body, it rejected it and the cadaver tendon failed and it split. It happens. There is nothing you can do. You have two choices when an injury like this happens, you can get a graph from your body or get a cadaver tendon. The positive of the cadaver is that you have less cuts to your body, so you have less recovery time. But on the negative side, you don’t know if it will take to you body and it will absorb it and accept it. With my knee, that did not take place because the cadaver tissue didn’t take to my body like it should have. The cadaver tissue failed. This time I took the patellar tendon from my own knee and they put it to where the ACL is supposed to be, which is what GSP did. Now my body has accepted it because it is my body, my tissue, my blood and it is automatically getting blood flow and healing as we speak. I am set back another six to eight months and I have to start the process all over. If it’s not hard once, try it twice.”
Cruz on how the injury happened: “I was with a guy who I train with a million times and we were moving, we were doing 50 percent movement skills with each other, shadow boxing and I was on with my brace. I was moving and I went to hit a pivot and the tissue just popped. My knee felt unstable and shortly after I got off the mat and I said something is wrong and I needed to sit down. I took my brace off and iced my knee immediately. I had some thoughts and I just figured there was no way that it happened from just moving. I was just shocked.”
Cruz on how he is emotionally right now: “I’ve had my couple days of cry-baby time per se. I allowed myself to be mad, be sad and be depressed, and you go through the ‘why me?’ stage. There is no point. Everyone is having a tough stage in life right now, it’s not just me. The economy is in a low state right now. It’s not, ‘woe is me.’ It’s ‘woe is everyone’ right now and I have to accept it. This is what I have to take to become the best athlete in the world. I am young and I will bounce back 100 percent as GSP did. The problem is I am losing key time, key moments in my life and in the peak of my career. The only way I can explain my emotions to other people who don’t have to rely on their body for the money and career, is that it is like you get dumped by a girl that you love very much, or you lost a family member. It breaks my heart and there is nothing you can do about it. You can only be patient and realize there is nothing you can do about it and suck it up. The hardest part about it is that I have said all these things to myself once already and now I have to say them to myself again. Again, this is the toughest time in my life. I have never gone through anything tougher than this and I’m going through it.”
Cruz on how he would feel if the UFC decided to strip him of his title: “The question has to be asked because you guys are media and you have to see what kind of response I’m going to give if I am asked if they would take away my title. I have given everything I have including my body to have that title, so it means everything to me to have it, to earn it. But I have to understand that I am here to build the 135-pound weight class, the bantamweight division and as a business I have to look at myself as part of the business. That being said, the division has other fighters who are healthy and ready to fight: Renan Barao, Michael McDonald, Mike Easton is on a rampage. There are a lot of guys in the division doing a lot of great things right now. Those are the things I have to think about right now, instead of putting my own selfish thoughts into it. The two ways I look at it is: from a business angle and a personal angle, and together they kind of cancel themselves out. I have to suck it up and Zuffa and Dana White know exactly what they are doing, with the business, with me, and I have to trust that they will make the right decision. They make the decisions. There is nothing I can control. The second is I try to control that, and I will drive myself crazy. So, I leave it God’s hands and I pray that things happen as they are supposed to.”
Cruz on if the UFC has spoken to him about the possibility of taking his belt yet: “It is too early. I just had surgery on Thursday. I hurt my knee the day after Thanksgiving while getting my morning workout in and it popped. I went and got an MRI and I went into surgery that same week and it is important for me to get back. Having to deal with being injured, and then with your family and your friends who ask how long you are out, and then I have to deal with media, and after I deal with the media, I have to see the fans and break their hearts. I have gotten so many tweets since the news got out and I would say 95 percent are very positive, uplifting, saying they’ve got my back. If the fans knew how much that helps me, well they know right now because I do this for them and I am in a hard spot right now and the love that I get from the fans right now is really keeping me up and optimistic. The glass is half full right now because the fans got my back and they want to see me back. Thank you so much for the Twitter love and the fans love right now and I am completely heart broken to let down the people who wanted to see me fight in the UFC. I’ll be back.”
UFC TONIGHT Insider Ariel Helwani on a potential super fight between GSP and Anderson Silva: “We have heard a lot from GSP. He said he wants this fight to happen on his terms. He may not be ready for it just yet. But I spoke to Anderson Silva’s manager last night, and he told me that he truly doesn’t believe that GSP wants this fight next and therefore he doesn’t believe this fight will happen.”
Helwani on if a Barao vs. McDonald fight will take place: “I spoke to UFC President Dana White today and as a result of Cruz’s injury, he wants to keep Renan Barao busy in 2013. So he says that the Barao vs. McDonald fight will happen next year. There is no date or event yet, but if McDonald wins the title against Barao, he will become the youngest champion in UFC history.”
Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Robert Klapper on how UFC fighters can prevent ACL injuries: “In every other sport, the NFL, NBA, there is an off-season. When you are fighting in the UFC, the best athletes in the world go at it 90 mph with no stopping. They need to cross train. Their bodies can’t take it, they must cross train more.”
“UFC Tonight” is the official weekly news and information show of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The show is co-hosted by veteran UFC fighter and multiple title contender Kenny Florian and Todd Harris. Two-time World MMA Awards Journalist of the Year Ariel Helwani adds insider news.
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