Cruz coach Eric Del Fierro: Garbrandt still ‘young in the sport,’ UFC 207 ‘his big test’

By: MMAjunkie Staff | December 23, 2016 8:45 am

As head coach of Alliance MMA, Eric Del Fierro knows a thing or two about molding raw talent into championship form. And Del Fierro acknowledges that Cody Garbrandt appears to possess plenty of potential, but the coach has no hesitation backing his pupil, bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz, in the UFC 207 matchup.

“Cody’s tough, man,” Del Fierro recently told MMAjunkie Radio. “He’s a killer. He’s going to come forward, and he’s going to try and get after it. He’s aggressive, and he’s still young in the sport. But he hasn’t had the big fights yet, so this is his big test.”

Cruz (22-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) and Garbrandt (10-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC) meet in the co-main event of UFC 207, which takes place Dec. 30 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

The fight has become a bit of a grudge match in the build-up to UFC 207, with both men willing to hop on a mic when given a chance to disparage their opponent. But the fight isn’t just a contest between two blow-hards.

Cruz is currently ranked No. 1 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA bantamweight rankings and sits at No. 3, as well, on the pound-for-pound list.

Meanwhile, Garbrandt is No. 7 at bantamweight, but at just 25 years hold has already registered three first-round knockouts in 2016 and looks to close the year in fine fashion.

With Garbrandt undefeated in his professional career, Del Fierro said his team knows the slugger will be coming in with a full head of steam.

“He’s got nothing to lose, so we expect him to be aggressive,” Del Fierro said. “We expect him to be normal Cody.”

Of course, Cruz is a special kind of opponent. Unbeaten since 2007, injuries have slowed Cruz’s UFC career, perhaps explaining a lack of respect that oftentimes appears to follow his professional run. But at 31, Cruz’s unique blend of movement, timing and rhythm are an incredibly difficult riddle to solve.

Del Fierro believes focusing on Cruz’s strengths is the best way to prepare. Sure, Garbrandt brings some legitimate skills to the table, but Del Fierro contends Cruz didn’t earn his place by beating up on cans.

“I think anybody in the top-5, top-10 are dangerous,” Del Fierro said. “Any given night, everybody is dangerous, and we treat them as such. We don’t train any differently than we would for anyone else in the division.

“At the end of the day, the gameplan revolves around our offense – not necessarily our defense. So we expect the best Cody whether he decides to go in there and wrestle, grapple or strike. He’s dangerous. They’re giving him a shot for a reason.”

For more on UFC 207, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

MMAjunkie Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show, available on SiriusXM Ch. 93, is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia and producer Brian “Goze” Garcia. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio.

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