Cody Garbrandt wants to let his fists fly, but Dominick Cruz keeps finding ways to avoid and annoy.
For Garbrandt, Friday’s UFC 207 co-main event at T-Mobile Arena is an opportunity to escape the bodyguards and separating walls and land the blows he says will make him the new bantamweight champion.
“Point fighting, getting decisions, skating by are not for myself. I don’t know how [Cruz] sleeps. I want to leave no doubt,” Garbrandt (10-0) said. “I want to prove I’m the best fighter in the division. I want to knock the guy out of there.
“He’s an older fighter … getting ready for the next chapter of his life [in Fox broadcasting]. I’m a hybrid fighter. I’m a different beast.”
Garbrandt is on a run of three straight first-round knockouts, passing former champion T.J. Dillashaw for his shot at Cruz, who in June won the second fight of his trilogy with Garbrandt’s mentor and Sacramento-based Team Alpha Male owner Urijah Faber.
“Urijah has been in the octagon with him three different times, has beat him, and Urijah knows what I’m capable of, my skills, that I’m a bad dude — the dude to do it,” Garbrandt said. “Every day I come off the mat, he says, ‘You’re going to tear him up, dude, he doesn’t know what’s going on.’ Dominick doesn’t know the fighter I am.”
Garbrandt expressed confidence that if the fight extends into the fourth and fifth rounds, longer than he’s used to fighitng, he’ll still be effective.
“If my adversary makes me pull out more of my tools, and it’s Dominick, that’s OK,” he said. “If he wants to set the pace, I’ll go higher. Test me. I’m here to be tested and show I’m the best fighter in the world.
“He doesn’t do well with scrappers who try to turn it into a brawl. I’m a finesse brawler. I have speed and power. I see myself rocking him, staggering him and putting his lights out. I’ve envisioned it since I was a teenager, and now it’s getting closer and closer.”
Garbrandt, 25, has endured a week of psychological penetration by San Diego’s Cruz (22-1), who chided Garbrandt so pointedly this week on a satellite media tour that the challenger stripped off his microphone and threatened to come knock next door to inflict some punches.
On Thursday, at the morning weigh-in at the MGM Grand, Cruz’s training partner, Jeremy Stephens, and Garbrandt engaged in a verbal back-and-forth that inspired some shoving and the use of security personnel.
On stage at the public weigh-in later, guards again separated the two when their face-off launched another exchange.
The challenger wants the final word to be his decisive punch to Cruz’s face.
“I know I have knockout power that can end the fight at any time, and he doesn’t,” Garbrandt said. “One of these right hands or left hooks, you’re going to sleep.”