This past Saturday, Vera knocked out Cruz in the fourth round of the main event of UFC San Diego. Afterward, “Chito” said Cruz’s style was “very low level” and “not the best style for MMA,” which drew the ire of some who felt Vera was pouring salt in the wound of his downed foe. That was not his intention though.
Speaking with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour, Vera made it clear that he stands by what he said, but that he has a ton of respect for Cruz.
“I respect, 1000 percent, him for what he did,” Vera said. “I said this in the press conference: He made bantamweight cool. He was the name that brought up the bantamweights. When he was the champion and was fighting other people, he was fighting alright guys. He was a cool guy, making a name for the division, and I think [he’s] the reason there’s a big gap between 125 and 135 in terms of names. Because he was the WEC champ, came to the UFC and got the belt. Even when he was injured over the years, no one forgot about it. He comes back, he did what he did against [Takeya] Mizugaki, which was f****** phenomenal, then again he broke f****** something, comes back and beats T.J. [Dillashaw]. That’s f****** amazing. But I can’t bring any of these emotions or respect once we’re fighting.
“I’m going to explain a little bit when I say the low level thing. Talking about fighting technique, it doesn’t matter what your style is. We’ve got a guy like Israel Adesanya, he’s very flashy, he’s very technical, but he has a real solid base. His technique is sharp as f***, but he’s really flashy. With Dominick, the ... movement that he does, me and my coaches, we think that’s a low-level style to do MMA. It’s just our opinion. It’s not a fact, but maybe we prove it because of the way that we finished him. But I wasn’t talking s*** like he sucks. I don’t think he sucks. It’s the movements we don’t think work for MMA, because there’s kicks, elbows, knees. There’s so much more you can run into. Yeah, you make a little trick, sure, but he’s not having a good base.
“When I say good base, I mean proper fundamentals,” Vera continued. “Throw good combos, move well, move your feet correctly, instead of just doing crazy back and forth [movement]. It makes a little harder, but it’s not technical or correct for us. That’s an opinion. Yes, I said it like that and I mean, it just sounds a little f***** up, it sounds like I was talking s***. I wasn’t talking s***. I do respect him. ... I have respect for him and I appreciate what he did, because without a guy like that, maybe bantamweight wouldn’t be what it is.”
Cruz is a pioneer of MMA, becoming the first UFC bantamweight champion when the promotion absorbed the WEC in 2013. Though much of his career was set back due to ongoing injury issues, Cruz still defended his title three times and is generally considered to be the greatest bantamweight of all-time.
And on Saturday, for much of the fight he looked to still be in peak form, winning the first two rounds on the judges scorecards with his trademark style.
Ultimately it was Vera who got his hand raised though, after landing a vicious head kick in the fourth round that put Cruz out. “Chito” says that was always what was going to happen — he just needed to be patient.
“I was expecting the movement,” Vera said. “I know he’s really good, when you throw a combination he goes side to side and then he comes back with something. But it’s very easy to say that. But once you’re in there, it’s a different animal. That’s why I don’t like to make fantasies in my head like, ‘Oh, I’m going to catch him!’ The guy is just as strong as any other young guy that I fought, he f****** got balls, he’s going to try hard. But I just knew one thing that I remembered from the last time he got dropped, from the [Pedro] Munhoz fight in the first round — Munhoz dropped him and then Munhoz unloaded. He threw every single ounce just to put him out.
“When I dropped him, as you can see, I was calculated. I never went ape s***, I never went crazy. I was like, ‘Take your time, be a sniper.’ When you have somebody hurt, you don’t have to kill him, you just have to touch him again, touch him again. And coach was doing a great f****** job of telling me the right little things, and I think we showed up a little better than the last fight. Next time, we’ll show up even better. I feel we’re adding wrinkles to my game. I feel like I’m getting better by practice, I’m better by every day on the job, and I’ve said it and I’ll say it again: I’m becoming a problem, because I’m getting better. I’m getting better.”
Vera certainly does seem to be improving. Since losing to Jose Aldo in 2020, Vera has put together four straight wins, including devastating knockouts of Cruz and fellow MMA legend Frankie Edgar. Vera is now the No. 5-ranked bantamweight in the world according to the UFC rankings and could be fighting to the title in the near future.
“That performance was f****** cool, but that’s in the past,” Vera said. “I don’t live in [the past] or enjoy myself because of what I just did. I forgot about it. I’m going to take the good, try to take away the bad, and get better for the next one. I don’t live for that moment. I live for different things. That is business. My livelihood really makes me happy, so for now, just keep getting better, keep adding wrinkles to the game, keep figuring out how to become a better fighter, because these years coming up are going to be the best years of my life and I’m going to take a lot advantage of it.”