Dominick Cruz claims title after fairytale comeback
Joe Rogan described the Jan. 17 UFC bantamweight title match between defending champion T.J. Dillishaw and former champ Dominick Cruz as “the most important fight in the history of the bantamweight division.”
The Boston event was billed as a clash between Cruz, the former champion who had been forced to give up his title and the sport for three years due to a series of injuries, and Dillashaw, who represents the “new breed” of fighter, skilled in every aspect of the sport.
The fight was especially promising as both fighters favour a stand-up style (Dillashaw went into the bout never having been taken down in the UFC), and both are known for their excellent movement. The fans went into the match expecting nothing short of a bang-up demonstration of technical kickboxing, and were not disappointed.
Throughout the fight, Dillashaw was constantly advancing on Cruz, keeping a low stance and applying striking pressure from all ranges. In other words, he looked exactly like the T.J., who had been so dominant in his rise to the bantamweight championship last May. Dillashaw’s footwork and movement was excellent, and throughout the fight he demonstrated why he has a reputation as one of the fastest fighters on Earth.
Unfortunately for Dillashaw, Cruz was faster – much faster.
Cruz was not moving like a man who had been out of the fight game with leg and groin injuries since September, 2013. Cruz was moving like Roy Jones Jr. in his prime.
The Dominator’s movement left T.J. Dillashaw, one of the fastest punchers in the UFC, frustrated and swinging at air. Adding insult to injury, Cruz managed to take Dillashaw to the canvas more than once, breaking his perfect takedown-defense streak despite doing little damage.
According to the data from FightMetric, Dillashaw swung and missed 299 times, landing just 26 per cent of his significant strikes. Later in the fight, Dillashaw changed strategy, targeting the legs of Cruz to some success, but it was not enough. Cruz won by split decision, having landed enough strikes and takedowns to win the championship by points.
In the post-fight press conference, Dillashaw expressed disappointment at the decision.
“I do feel like I won the fight,” said the former champ. “Just pressure alone, controlling the octagon and landing the bigger strikes.”
Surprisingly, the tremendous main event was slightly overshadowed by Matt Mitrione’s eye.
In the heavyweight undercard bout, Mitrione squared off against Travis Browne, and suffered multiple eye-pokes when Browne took advantage of his greater reach to push off Mitrione’s face with his palm whenever Mitrione tried to step inside.
The eye poking is nothing new in the UFC, whose fingerless gloves have been criticized. Controversy arose, however, when referee Gary Forman failed to issue Browne with an official warning, despite multiple stoppages. Forman was also criticized for not noticing one of the poking incidents, requiring Mitrione to call out “I’m seeing double.”
During the third round, a devastating straight right by Browne shattered Mitrione’s orbital floor. Immediately Mitrione’s eye swelled up to the size of an apple, and Browne was quickly able to gain top position and finish the fight with strikes on the ground.
“That is as bad an eye as we’ve ever seen,” said Joe Rogan from the commentary booth.