May 7, 2020
May 7, 2020

UFC 249 preview: Henry Cejudo vs. Dominick Cruz

Henry Cejudo vs. Dominick Cruz betting preview and odds

Cejudo and Cruz stats

Cejudo vs. Cruz predictions: Where is the value?

Cejudo and Cruz's fighting styles analysed

UFC 249 preview: Henry Cejudo vs. Dominick Cruz

UFC 249 is set to commemorate one of the most notable comebacks to the sport in recent years, as Dominick Cruz makes his first foray into the octagon since December 2016 to challenge Henry Cejudo for the Bantamweight Championship. Will Cejudo earn a sixth successive UFC win or can Cruz claim the belt for the third time in his career? Read on to inform your Cejudo vs. Cruz predictions.

Event: UFC 249

Date: May 9, 2020

Venue: VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, Florida, US (behind closed doors)

Cejudo vs. Cruz: Tale of the tape

Henry 'The Messenger' Cejudo

Fighter

Dominick 'The Dominator' Cruz

33

Age

35

163 cm

Height

173 cm

61 kg

Weight

61 kg

163 cm

Reach

175 cm

9-2-0

UFC record

5-1-0

15-2-0

Overall MMA record

22-2-0

12:36

Average fight time

17:35

45%

Striking accuracy

32%

Champion

UFC ranking

-

This fight was originally planned to be between Cejudo and Jose Aldo, who withdrew when it was moved to the US due to visa issues. It will take place at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Florida on May 9, but will be behind closed doors due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

This will be the first bout for which Cejudo defends the Bantamweight Championship, having won the vacant title versus Marlon Moraes at UFC 238 in June 2019.

The 33-year-old was victorious in his last five fights, which also included winning and successfully defending the Flyweight Championship against Demetrious Johnson and T.J. Dillashaw respectively before relinquishing the belt in February this year to return to Bantamweight.

Cruz will be making his first competitive UFC appearance in 1,226 days.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Cejudo has become recognised as one of the UFC’s most formidable all-round fighters. This is reflected by the fact that he is presently ranked #3 in the men’s pound-for-pound rankings and has collected three Performance of the Night awards in his last five outings.

By comparison, the last few years have been an incredibly frustrating time for Cruz marred by a series of injuries. ‘The Dominator’ last stepped into the octagon in December 2016, when he was defeated by Cody Garbrandt at UFC 207, losing the Bantamweight Championship in the process.

Since the loss to Garbrandt, Cruz revealed that he has been plagued by plantar fascia tendinitis and has struggled to walk at times. He was initially scheduled to face Jimmie Rivera at UFC 219 in December 2017, but was forced to pull out due to a broken arm.

He was then expected to take on John Lineker at UFC 233 in January 2019, but again had to withdraw after suffering a shoulder injury that left him out of action for a year. His fight against Cejudo will be his first competitive UFC appearance in 1,226 days.

This bout will also be the first between the pair. Cejudo has utilised the build-up to mock Cruz’s injury struggles, stating "I was afraid to sign a contract to fight him because I didn’t know if he was going to show up. He's too brittle."

Meanwhile, Cruz has retorted "I believe Henry has a habit of saying things just to get hype and have people talking about him. I wouldn't agree to this fight if I didn't think I could win."

Analysing the Cejudo vs. Cruz odds

Cejudo is the favourite at 1.454*, which translates to just under a 67% probability of victory. By comparison, Cruz is 2.890*, equating to an approximate 33% chance.

Cejudo's odds have historically shortened when he has been the favourite.

This is the first bout in four that Cejudo has entered as favourite, having recorded shock victories over Johnson, Dillashaw and Moraes after closing at 4.95, 3.08 and 2.40 respectively. Historically, his odds have shortened when he is favourite and lengthened when the underdog, meaning those favouring him may enjoy better value by betting sooner rather than later.

Those eyeing up Cruz should be wary that when Cejudo is favourite, his opponents’ odds often lengthen massively – Sergio Pettis moved from 2.70 to 3.90 and Wilson Reis jumped from 3.35 to 4.35.

Cruz’s odds are significantly longer than for any of his previous five bouts, for which he averaged 1.512 at close. Being the underdog is uncharted territory for the 35-year-old, who was favourite for four of these and won all but the aforementioned defeat to Garbrandt.

While any significant analysis of Cruz’s odds are diluted by his extended absence from the octagon, it is worth noting that for his last five bouts they moved by a margin of less than 0.1 between open and close.

Cejudo vs. Cruz: Fighting styles compared

Cejudo adopts an orthodox stance with a reliance on grappling and wrestling. While he initially garnered a reputation as a fighter willing to allow bouts to run the distance in a bid to carve out victories, his recent results have indicated a willingness to impose a more direct and aggressive style.

Cejudo will likely immediately proceed to attack in the hunt for a knockout win.

Indeed, after enjoying six successive decision victories between October 2013 and November 2015, he earned three TKO wins in his last five bouts.

His newly developed attack-minded approach means he edges Cruz for both significant strikes landed per minute (3.82 to 3.53) and absorbed per minute (2.73 to 2.15). Despite the greater quantity of his attacks he also manages to maintain a better striking accuracy, again outperforming Cruz by 45% to 32%.

Notably for a fighter that incorporates elements of wrestling into his style, Cejudo is yet to be involved in a MMA bout settled via submission. However, his aptitude is highlighted by the fact that he only launches only 58% of attacks from a standing position and successfully defends a massive 91% of attempted takedowns.

The extent and manner to which Cruz may have to adapt his style in order to accommodate for his extended absence is unclear, but his track record intimates that he may align himself for a points victory. All but two of his last ten MMA bouts lasted the duration, and the 13-fight winning streak that was curtailed by the defeat to Garbrandt witnessed just three knockouts.

Cruz’s attacking approach can be considered more simplistic and he predominantly attempts to keep the fight upright whilst pursuing his opponent’s head with his fists. He attempts 82% of his significant strikes from a standing position and targets opponents’ heads with 69% compared to just 59% for Cejudo.

Despite this, Cruz is not averse to fighting on the ground and actually attempts more takedowns per 15 minutes than Cejudo (3.17 to 2.16). While he beats Cejudo for submission proficiency by virtue of having won one bout in such a manner to Cejudo’s none, he rarely attempts to enforce the issue, averaging a mere 0.06 attempted submissions per 15 minutes to Cejudo’s 0.22.

It is worth noting that Cruz’s cautious style is by no means reactionary and is spearheaded by strong defensive ability. He successfully defends 75% of significant strikes (compared to 66% for Cejudo) and despite attempting fewer attacks than his upcoming opponent, he landed more significant strikes than his competitor in four of his last five bouts. His superior reach (175cm to 163cm) should also lend itself to a defence-based approach.

All of this indicates that the fight is primed to unfold in a relatively straightforward manner – Cejudo will likely immediately proceed to attack in the hunt for a knockout win, whereas Cruz will be defensive and seek to engineer enough opportunities on the counter to lead to a decision victory. How successful these respective strategies will prove to be is primarily dictated by how mentally and physically prepared Cruz is come fight night.

Cejudo vs. Cruz: Where is the value?

It is easy to craft an argument suggesting that Cejudo’s status as favourite has been rewarded to him on muscle memory alone: in the time since Cruz last fought, he was won five successive bouts and become champion of both the UFC Flyweight and Bantamweight divisions.

Determining the value depends on the extent Cruz’s abilities have been diminished by his injuries.

However, being both the underdog and victim to long term injuries has never been a consistent barrier to success for Cruz. He defeated Takega Mizugaki at UFC 178 in September 2014 having not stepped inside the octagon for almost three years, and then defeated Dillashaw to become Bantamweight champion in his first fight for fifteen months.

With this in mind, determining the value in this fight directly depends on to what extent (if any) Cruz’s abilities have been diminished by his latest layoff. The fact remains that Cejudo is in both better form and shape, indicating that Cruz will be required to turn in a largely error-absent performance while being in at least decent physical condition to enjoy a plausible chance of victory.

For those backing Cejudo, an early knockout victory seems the obvious choice to enhance your odds. All but one of his eight MMA knockout wins to date lasted no longer than the second round, and the impetus will be on the defending champion to take control of the bout. The fight to feature under 4.5 rounds at 2.680* is a strong value bet on this front.

By contrast, those favouring another underdog victory for Cruz should look at the fight lasting the distance and being settled by decision – over 4.5 rounds is available at 1.495*.

Odds subject to change

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