TITLE-holder Justin Cruz of Guam said he has diligently studied Crisanto Pitpitunge's every move, downplaying the local challenger’s claim that he will pull off a big surprise when they face off for the bantamweight crown in Pacific Xtreme Combat (PXC) 31 on Saturday at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
The 26-year-old Cruz, nicknamed "The Shocker," noted that he has battled several other fighters from Lakay Gym—including coach Mark Sangiao who he beat by submission in a different MMA outfit three years ago. But Cruz acknowledges that student can sometimes turn out better than teacher and he is not taking his opponent lightly.
“I’ve fought some of them and they are good, but I have prepared hard for this,” said Cruz. “He’s a very good fighter standing up… I know he can be scrappy on the ground, it will be very hard to keep him on the ground, but I’m prepared.”
Cruz has held the title belt for over two years but Saturday’s fight will be his first in nine months. He has won his last four bouts via unanimous decision.
Experience, Cruz said, will be a main advantage against the relative newcomer.
“I’ve been fighting tough fights for years, Crisanto has had four matches,” said Cruz, who has a record of 18 wins and four losses.
Pitpitunge is an MMA late-bloomer at 25 and holds a 3-1 card.
“Nakalaban na rin siya (Cruz) ng mga teammates ko, nakita ko na rin yung mga skills niya, so yun ang napaghandaan namin,” said Pitpitunge, noting that Cruz is a fine grappler but not an unbeatable fighter.
Pitpitunge stressed that has been training for this title fight for five months and his team has given him full support throughout.
Right after his unanimous decision victory over Victor Galdon in PXC 29 last February, Pitpitunge was informed he has earned the right to challenge for the crown and the Baguio City native has since been in intense training with teammates at Lakay Gym.
“Sa gym, partner play naman kami lagi. Kung ano’ng hindi alam ng isa, ini-impart naman ng iba, lahat-lahat nagtutulungan.”
In other main matches, Richie Redman faces off with Californian Tristan Arenal, local boy Guzman Pia-yas faces off with Trevin Jones while Alvin Cacdac, also from California, battles Rex Wa-o of La Trinidad.
The undercard also features all-Filipino fights, with Rolando Gabriel Dy battling Alde Alonzo de Zosa, Joseph Mercado taking on Troy Bantiag, Eugene Toquero squaring off with Victor Torre, Glenn Ranillo facing Macky Favis and Jerry Legaspi battling Arex Montalban.
PXC chief executive officer EJ Calvo assured that PXC 31 will be as exciting as every other cards they have put up.
"We don't feature fighters who fight sure wins. We present fighters who can bring it, that's how the sport will grow, and Crisanto and Justin will surely put up a good fight," Calvo said.