Cruz has been quoted that TJ and himself are very different and I agree with him wholeheartedly. What they do similarly is the use of feints and drop and elevation changes. How they do this is totally different though, where Dom has a Willie Pep Dutch Muay Thai kind of setup for his straight counter off the jab which tends to look herky jerky but in all reality its complex movement based on distorting distance and gaining power by exploding on the open angles and defending at the same time. Now TJ is very much Dutch in his style as well, comparing straight counters TJ loves the drop which is like a pull counter where he will pull initiating a response from the target and dropping his elevation while stepping off center to land a straight cross versus an overhand. The goal is similar but the path to get there is totally different one relies on intercepting speed and winning the speed battle. One is based on feinting from a distance changing stances midway through, using that movement as built in defense and cutting the angle to land all in a 3 step movement. Another thing that’s similar is that each movement allows for multiple strikes from a jab to over the top round house. Now if we are comparing levels of predictability which I wouldn’t advise anyone takes too much stock into, you have to say TJ is more predictable but the b side is that he’s so based on the centerline when he strikes that his volume is way higher the Cruzs. For Cruz I see an unpredictability when he fights take his fight with Mizugaki everyone pretty much assumed Cruz was going to leg kick him when he switched and cut the angle but he ends up hitting his patented knee tap. Now Cruz can go anywhere at any time before anyone can realize and do anything to stop it. What the bread and butter of being able to go anywhere is that stutter step motion and ability to live in the safe angles.
If we compare angle use people say TJ without thinking because he beat up Barao with them but let’s not forget what Cruz did to everyone from Alpha Male the only person to get the upper hand with the angles against him was Mighty Mouse but then he took Mighty Mouse down and beat him grappling and with the ground and pound. Now TJ uses angles but again loves the centerline and takes shots but homies got a chin so it’s not a real big issue however Joe Soto dotted him up and Barao landed clean shots as well the difference in those fights where Bang Ludwig getting on TJ to follow the game plan of hit and don’t get hit, which lead to TJ increasing the volume in the mid and pocket range which stops any return fire.
Now for the kicks who kicks it better is the wrong question, the kicking game is totally different as well. Where TJ loves the head round houses and over the top roundhouses and liver kicks off the lead leg. Cruz loves to feint in immediately change of direction leg kick the lead leg, leg kick rear leg, and dart combo. Cruz’s legs are primarily flying knee tools and leg body kick tools, a lot of damage is done with the jab hooks and darts with high volume and shovel angles so his kicks are mainly high damage minimum risk tools. Both never kick whats not there if its available everything’s coming behind those hips but there is never a feeler kick being thrown. So nobody wins the kicking match up because of the power kicks have if anyone lands to the head or the liver its pretty much a rap so gauging who’s better at this level is stupid. Why, because its to high level at this level on person making a mistake or landing an inch here or there could mean KO for the other its that simple its not Randy vs James Toney we’re talking about.
Tendencies of pressure are different as well , because of Bang in TJS camp he developed this Dutch forward motion 75% of the time and cutting back rarely but his backwards motion turn into forward motion when he pulled back and dips around and ahead of his target. Cruz on the other hand is a pressure fighter coming at you like a hurricane from every angle all the time he takes short 15 second breaks here and there where he will back up more consistent to a real backwards motion. Now during his offensive and defensive pursuits he is moving back at 1 and forward at 2 and 3 so he’s always moving getting closer and closer. The styles are distinctly similar in way but different. The more technical edge for me goes to Cruz because in my opinion I could care less about volume if you getting hit more and more because of it use of angles is superior but the wrestling and grappling is where the difference is made up by TJ. Mind you the gap in striking is significant for me but at this level that means nothing because the skill is so high that a single mistake or tendency picked up on could mean the end.
Now I’m no grappling expert but I’m no novice either, that being said it’s clear TJ wins grappling with Cruz. Cruz’s go to take down is that knee tap and he’s a serious as a heart attack when he shoots for it and cuts and dips and surprises everyone watching by doing it so fast. The issue is he can take you down but immediately goes to ground and pound to finish because unless you’re 5’3 he can’t keep you there for a significant time I won’t say cannot but rarely does. Now TJ is a different story D 1 wrestling and high level rear naked and guillotine defense plus an arsenal of op game subs yet to be seen but they exist trust me the peruvian neck tie and darc are just waiting to be applied.
The game with these two grappling is who gets top position be it mount, stopped at half guard, or side control. Cruz from the top tees off and could stop anyone there and possibly sub you as well because I assume he’s been working his subs during his lay off. Now off his back who knows he’s not usually there but when he has been he’s been in danger of getting taped and taped by Faber to name one. Now TJ having trained with the best rear naked and guillotine team in the country has stellar defense against those commonly targeted subs, the difference for him is his wrestling is so good that he’s rarely on the bottom because stereotypes are born from some truth that wrestlers hate and struggle from the bottom. Dope that Cruz has Phil Davis in camp but TJ has Lance Palmer a ton of UC Davis talent and Chad Mendes the best athletic wrestler and second best technical wrestler at 145 I have ever seen. If we judge grappling on a scale of types wrestling goes to TJ subs defense goes to TJ and offensive subs go to TJ so sweep for TJ. That’s not the end of the story either folks there’s a lot of minutia involved.
Here’s the catch the difference in levels keep the match close because wrestling TJ wins by a gap in my eyes, subs are very close because of the assumption that Cruz has been working his BJJ game, and finally defense goes to TJ but it’s close because Cruz is still the 135 in the gym so getting rolled up by 145,155,170, 185, 205s will increase that defensive game from the jump in the gym alone now add 2 years of just that. So the grappling is just a mirror in a way of the striking. Wild card is the clinch because neither guy has demonstrated anything perplexing in the clinch other than a collar tie and uppercuts if someone presents a nice knee or sweep game from the clinch that could tip the scales for sure just something to think about.
-Product of a Late Night