When T.J. Dillashaw defeated Renan Barao for the second time this past July at UFC on Fox 16, he did it with what could be called “Cruz-like” footwork and movement. He also made a statement: that shocking upset title victory in his first fight against Barao was no fluke. Dillashaw is the real deal.

With a KO victory over former Bellator featherweight champ Joe Soto sandwiched between the two Barao wins (a fight that many accused Dillashaw of fighting down to his opponent’s level in), Dillashaw has shown that he has the potential to be a long-term champion in the UFC. His biggest test: the man just announced as his next opponent, former champion Dominick Cruz. Dillashaw vs. Cruz will take place this coming January at a Fox Sports 1 event, the first championship fight that network will host.

It also just happens to be a superfight.

Superfights were all the rage in the UFC a couple of years ago. Brock Lesnar vs. Fedor Emelianenko. Georges St. Pierre vs. Anderson Silva. Anderson Silva vs. Jon Jones. Jon Jones vs. Cain Velasquez.

Of course, none of them ever happened. The closest thing the UFC has had to a superfight to date was likely B.J. Penn vs. St. Pierre, or Urijah Faber vs. Frankie Edgar. Anderson Silva vs. Nick Diaz might have qualified at a different time in their careers, and minus the drug test debacle that ensued.

In any case, the constant talk of superfights eventually soured some fans when none of the big ones came to fruition, and eventually (and thankfully) the hoopla died down.

That doesn’t mean superfights aren’t still out there. Just a week ago there was talk about Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson vs. T.J. Dillashaw, but that was the wrong superfight to make.

This is the right one.

When Dillashaw meets Cruz, he will essentially be looking in a mirror: that Cruz-like footwork and movement will no longer be an asset he alone possesses. Cruz, who has been dogged worse than any fighter in recent memory by the injury bug over the last few years, has a very comparable skill set, and will be returning to the octagon extremely motivated.

That’s not what makes this a superfight, however. Not alone. Two fighters with killer movement and striking — that’s simply half the equation. The other half? Cruz was never defeated for his bantamweight title. It’s as simple as that. Cruz was stripped due to injury, and though it’s not the case on paper, in essence, this is a champion vs. champion bout.

Cruz’s resume is as long as Dillashaw’s rise to prominence is sudden, but don’t let the two contrasting careers fool you. These are two supremely talented fighters. Dillashaw is just hitting his prime. Cruz, despite the frequent injuries, is still in his. Just look at his dismantling of Takeya Mizugaki in his return fight in September 2014 as evidence. Coming off a years-long layoff, he wrecked the top ten bantamweight within the first round in a stunning display of force, taking the win by KO in just over a minute.

This is the most exciting fight the UFC can make in the bantamweight division. Up-and-comers like Aljamain Sterling (likely to see a title shot within the next two years) and Bryan Caraway (less likely) are on the cusp, but not quite there yet. Just as important, this is a fight that can gets fans excited about the 135lb weight class – something that hasn’t really been the case thus far. It’s the bantamweight version of McGregor vs. Aldo, itself a superfight arguably.

Now, we just need Cruz to make it to fight night unscathed (that sound you hear is thousands of MMA fans collectively knocking on wood) for this superfight to happen.

About The Author

Senior Staff Writer

Covering the sport of MMA from Ontario, Canada, Jay Anderson has been writing for various publications covering sports, technology, and pop culture since 2001. Jay holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Guelph, and a Certificate in Leadership Skills from Humber College under the Ontario Management Development Program. When not slaving at the keyboard, he can be found in the company of his dog, a good book, or getting lost in the woods.