East Coast, Tri-state striker, Plinio Cruz finds himself in a phenomenal position to hand Magomed Sultanakhmedov back-to-back losses for the first time in his professional fighting career. Come Saturday March 5th from the Crocus City Arena in Moscow, Russia, Cruz goes head-to-head against the talented left-handed striker at M-1 Challenge XXIII and with Sultanakhmedov still reeling from his 19-second submission loss to Rafal Moks, Cruz has the opportunity to turn his underdog status into an astonishing upset.
Fighting out of Jorge “Macaco” Patino’s Gold Team USA, Cruz has a Chute Boxe affiliation and his stand-up is characterized as being extremely aggressive and physical; Cruz has the ability to press the action and come at his opponents relentlessly while throwing rapid-fire combinations which is a perfect match to counter the Sultanakhmedov’s striking. Should a standing game plan become ineffective, Cruz’s Brazilian jiu jitsu brown belt can be resurrected and immediately put into action on the canvass where his grappling skills will also pair up perfectly against the Tulsa, Russia native.
Cruz began training at age 16 while growing up in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Under the guidance of Master Patino, Cruz entered The São Paulo State Championship after six months and placed third; a tournament he re-entered a couple years later and subsequently won.
After watching some of Macaco’s MMA fights in Brazil early in his career, Cruz’s heart was immediately devoted to the sport of mixed martial arts and his training was re-directed and focused, founded in discipline, respect and humility.
A very skilled and well rounded fighter, Cruz began competing professionally in 2008 and his first MMA bouts were part of the Ultimate Combat Grand Prix where he won the light heavyweight belt with back-to-back victories.
Having the opportunity to fight in the 2010 M-1 Selection tournament, Cruz earned a hard-fought decision victory against John Doyle in the opening brackets which lined up the semi-final tilt against the eventual tournament winner, Tyson Jeffries. The contest with Jeffries was one of the card’s most exciting fights with Cruz keeping the Team Quest fighter at range and lamping the Oregon native with non-stop, precision striking. Had it not been for a point deduction thanks to an incidental kick landing in Jeffries’ fruit-basket, Cruz would have likely won the bout; instead he lost by a razor-thin split decision.
Proving worthy of being called back to the M-1 ring, Cruz faces his toughest competition to date on a stage set for a wickedly entertaining upset; knocking off Sultanakhmedov in front his home country crowd would catapult Cruz into middleweight contention and put the Russian on a skid to the bottom of the ladder.
The middleweight tilt can be seen LIVE online for free on the official M-1 website, www.M-1Global.com, starting at 11:00am EST / 8:00am PST on Saturday March 5th.