BOSTON — TJ Dillashaw versus Dominick Cruz was labeled as the most anticipated bantamweight title fight in UFC history, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.
Cruz emerged victorious Sunday night by split decision to take back the bantamweight title and leave Dillashaw absolutely stunned as he put his hands on his head in disbelief when Bruce Buffer announced the result.
The official scores from the three judges were 48-47, 46-49, 49-46. Cruz, who lost the bantamweight title in 2014 after injuries prevented him from fighting, drew a raucous applause from the TD Garden crowd as he took the belt and raised it high, closing UFC Fight Night Boston.
Cruz (21-2) did well early in Round 1, evading nearly all of Dillashaw’s punches and kicks. The former champ was all over the place. Cruz also scored a takedown and stunned Dillashaw a bit with a powerful left-handed jab, but the reigning champion grew stronger and was the better fighter over the last 1:30 of the opening round.
Round 2 was pretty even until Cruz took down Dillashaw twice, but he wasn’t able to land any powerful punches during those takedowns as Dillashaw quickly recovered from both.
Cruz landed another takedown in Round 3, but Dillashaw again snuck out of it. However, Cruz landed a flurry of strikes in the final 30 seconds.
Frustration was starting to settle in for Dillashaw, but he rebounded well in Round 4. The reigning champ scored his first takedown and did more damage with punches to Cruz’s face than the first three rounds combined. Dillashaw also pinned Cruz to the side of the cage for more than a minute and kneed him in the back of the leg at least 10 times.
Round 5 began well for Dillashaw (13-3), as he used an array of kicks to inflict pain on Cruz. But the former champ battled back and landed a few punches to close a pretty even round.
“The only thing surprising is that I had to show something to myself,” Cruz said. “… There’s no such thing as rust, how many times do I have to say that? Rust only exists if you don’t train hard enough.
“I don’t want to talk about things I came in with because it’s stupid. I had some problems with my foot coming in, and it had finally had enough in the fifth round.”
Here are the final fight stats, via UFC.com.
Cruz’s early success should’ve forced Dillashaw to go for the KO in the final two rounds, but as was the case throughout the fight, Cruz was able to duck around and fend off most of the attacks thrown his way. Dillashaw just didn’t have the needed sense of urgency, and it cost him the title.
“I’m very disappointed,” Dillashaw said. “I thought I had the fight, I thought I was the aggressor, I thought I pushed the pace. I feel like the last two rounds I won pretty decisively.
“I felt I won the fight — I want to do it again. Props to Dominick. I missed some shots. It was my fault for not following them up.”
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Jan 17, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Dominick Cruz (blue) celebrates his win over TJ Dillashaw (not pictured) in a world bantamweight championship bout at UFC Fight Night at the TD Garden. Cruz won after five rounds by split decision. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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