The Geminis are about to go to war, these two are born from the same fundamentals but utilize them complete different than each other. TJ is the puncher he moves forward like Hagler switching his feet while exchanging and on the initial shift to change angles before entering the dead zone between him and the target, where he can not be kicked or punched. Cruz is different like Willie Pep different, he is the volume guy. At the end of 5 will look clean and pristine while the target is bloodied with a sever headache coming on from all the feints adjustments and volume of strikes. They are twins but totally different at the same time don’t get so fixated on how the footwork looks. Look at what the end game is of each movement, Cruz feints better and has a much better defense when moving on the outside versus TJs outside defense. TJ takes large movements on the outside while Cruz travels in the dead zone and on the ghost angles where he can see everything and throw and the target can’t defend or retaliate. In the pocket TJ wins he has a ability like Mighty Mouse to line up a pretty jab and then drop hammers in creative or modern boxing ways with rear upper cuts versus the typical 2 following the triple or double jab. The striking will be on display and the grappling will be a threat to keep each fighter honest.
Now the difference don’t stop there the mental side is something rarely discussed correctly. TJ gets emotional during fights let’s face it he loves fighting the tales of his gym wars are everywhere. TJ get angry when he gets hit and starts to match and then pile on volume after he gets hit or tagged. Much like Lawler when striking you may hit him and have an upper hand but if your defense is lacking, he will pile a wild amount of volume on you while switching feet and cutting huge angles so you can’t escape. Cruz is hard to pin down trying to cut him off is like catching smoke but not like Mayweather much more kinetic. Cruz loves to slide, pivot, and feint to force a reaction because the angle he chooses to take is low risk high return and forces the opponent to pause or move back freeing Cruz. The dart which is a old old boxing move or a v-step lead is Cruz’s got to to get out of any bind while tallying up those points, he explodes with a v step and drops his head over the lead knee to slip any strikes and lands the counter 2, lead 2, or lead 1. Frustration will set in if TJ lets Cruz get into his usually game. In light of all the trash talk Cruz is right TJ hasn’t fought anyone with defense on the outside like Cruz, Joe Soto gave TJ fits and his defense is nowhere near Cruz’s. Renan was a wading stiff fighter that isn’t Cruz in the dead space or on the outside, so TJ needs to be conservative with the angels he picks and the spots he decides to make his cuts into. Cruz also needs to be aware that TJ has dealt with in successful fashion the super fast kinetic movements.
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 switch stepping or just 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 center-line when he strikes that his volume is way higher the Cruz’s. 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. Dom has hit the GSP Mighty Mouse RDA level where his stand up and take downs look the same so his targets freeze in waiting to try to intercept what’s coming but the speed is too much to match.
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 center-line 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. One is better than the other with hiding head kicks versus leg kicks, TJs head kicks look like Cowboys he does a fake switch hitch and lands his lead leg head kicks all the time when he needs to but he has a kind of build up to his leg kicks. TJ loves the head round houses and over the top roundhouses and liver kicks off the lead leg which is very nice and will get better and better as time goes on from dexterity and a speed viewpoint. Leg kicks and knees are Cruz’s world he’s deadly with them and because he rarely throws head kicks. After you see and get hit with enough leg kicks you will start biting on the movement and go to protect the leg and he will swing high on the head kick and catch a target slipping. 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 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 can kick but they kick differently and use different kicks.
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 your getting hit more and more because of the use of angles is far superior then volume doesn’t matter. 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 but in his most recent fight he mixed the tap with a double leg mid way through cutting Miz in half. He’s as serious as a heart attack when he shoots for it and cuts and dips and surprises everyone watching by doing it so fast watch that Faber take down it was from a stand still he didn’t rush in just shot it like GSP and Mighty Mouse. 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 because he did in his fight with Miz because he’s so damn persist with his punches but he rarely does. Now TJ is a different story D1 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. I don’t know if TJ is better then Faber wrestling but I know Chad is the best in that gym and video of TJ and Chad is interesting.
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 its kind of evened out, TJ had 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 and know has a stable of wrestlers because of Lester and Team Elevation. Lets not get it twisted either Joe B and Lance are out in Colorado helping TJ out. 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 135er 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 4 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.
That’s that the twins will be fighting Sunday on the best free card in years coming down the pipe is my Bellator breakdown (god help me lol), the rest of the card for UFC Boston’s breakdown and then a recap afterwards. Have a good one folks I’ll talk to you later.
-Stay WARM folks and family