Champion vs. (uncrowned) champion. Dominick Cruz completed one of the most impressive comebacks in the history of the sport, reclaiming the belt he never lost, by the narrowest of margins.
By James Stride @James_A_Stride
Main Event – TJ Dillashaw vs. Dominic Cruz
This championship fight starts with Dominic Cruz landing a solid body kick, both men using every angle of the octagon to maximise their striking potential. Cruz throwing extremely unorthodox shots from very odd angles, but landed very little in the opening exchanges. They both continued to throw shots throughout the round, seemingly looking for the KO early on, with neither landing the fatal blow. A demonstration in excellent evasive footwork from both fighters to open the fight.
More of the same in the opening moments of the second, with them both trying to land their chosen shots – Dillashaw with his high head kicks, Cruz still shooting with the unorthodox hooks and straights. Dillashaw began to have some success with his high roundhouse kick, catching Cruz twice in quick succession. The ‘Dominator’ replied with a good takedown that Dillashaw scrambled out of well, bringing the fight back to its feet. The fight continued to test both competitors striking ability, and defensive footwork, with each man landing some decisive blows in the exchanges. Dillashaw’s favoured high-kick getting the crowd on their feet. Cruz having equal success with his stand up game, landing some decent shots, as well as a takedown late in the round.
Dillashaw began the fourth with some success off his lead right, Cruz returned in kind with a short flurry of his own, although it was hard to tell how many landed. The round seemed to be a test of Dillashaw’s tenacity versus Cruz’s defensive movement, both putting on a memorable display. Going in to the last round, both men looked like they’d weathered the storm, but the last round was a test of character for both of them. Very hard to call at this point – probably even on the judges scorecard – but let’s not make any assumptions yet.
The championship rounds have been gruelling, but Dillashaw seemed to be landing the more effective shots, or at least the more aggressive shots. Both men begin to swing leading into the last minutes of the fight, making for an explosive end to an extremely entertaining fight. Both fighters looked to have given it there all, with neither thinking they’d lost the fight. This will be a close call for the judges tonight, but a truly great performance from both fighters.
Result | Dominic Cruz def. TJ Dillashaw via split decision (48-47, 46-49, 49-46)
Co-Main Event – Anthony Pettis vs. Eddie Alvarez
The co-main event started fast with Alvarez applying the pressure early, pressing ‘Showtim’e up against the cage and utilising his impressive wrestling skills. Pettis did a good job of avoiding the takedown attempts, before Alvarez eventually grounded him, but they stood up almost immediately after. Pettis looked heavy footed in the first but continued to throw serious body kicks, with Alvarez struggling to block them.
The second round started quickly again, with Alvarez finding success with a high-kick that connected, he continued the pressure, driving Pettis into the cage. At this point both fighters are trading shots, each landing kicks to one another’s leading legs. The round ends with the two trading, Alvarez attempting a late takedown that’s stuffed by Pettis.
Pettis had great success with the switch body kick at the start of the third, so much so that Alvarez was forced to attempt the takedown early on, ‘Showtime’ stopping it successfully. They began trading shots once again, this time Alvarez got the takedown, pressing Pettis up against the cage, controlling the round from there. The fight ends with Pettis and Alvarez trading heavy shots – kicks, punches and anything in between – it’s a close one!
Result | Eddie Alvarez def. Anthony Pettis via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Travis Browne vs. Matt Mitrione
The opening moments of the first round allowed Browne and Mitrione to demonstrate their movement, both avoiding any real damage from the others opening strikes. Both fighters used the first round to find their range, with Mitrione catching Browne with a solid left hand to strike first. All the while Browne continued to look for the front kick to the face, the kick he knocked Overeem out with back at UFC Fight night 26. The first round ends with a bad finger to the eye leaving Mitrione pacing back to the opposite side of the cage, raising the argument for finger controlled gloves again.
Mitrione started the second round aggressively – rushing in to pressure Browne – but he suffered another poke to the eye, this time from Browne’s thumb as he entered to throw a strike. Fight’s stopped for a second time as the doctors examine the damage, with Mitrione saying he wants to continue. Browne earned a takedown midway through the round with a decent sweep, and he began to apply the pressure to Mitrione, however it was short lived with the two standing it up again after a brief exchange.
The final round saw Browne begin the more active, continuing to throw his teap kicks and even a jumping switch kick, but Mitrione landed the first big shot of the round. Browne responded in turn with his own strong right hand shot that backed up his opponent. From there Browne took Mitrione down and began to pummel him with accurate strikes, breaking through his guard repeatedly with punches and elbows, leaving a serious swelling on Mitrione’s right eye.
Result | Travis Browne def. Matt Mitrione via TKO (punches) at 4:30 of round one
Broken orbital floor. This and the shoulder happened after the 2nd eye poke. I don’t think they would’ve happened pic.twitter.com/wFn1NC3j5Y
— Matt Mitrione (@mattmitrione) January 18, 2016
Ross Pearson vs. Francisco Trinaldo
In the first fight of the main card Pearson and Trinaldo both came out moving around, making room for one another’s initial strike attempts, Trinaldo gaining the lead in the early exchanges with a low leg kick. He found success with two high knees later in the round that Pearson ate and kept walking through, but Trinaldo’s accuracy caught Pearson out again, with a high head kick landing late in the round. Before a heavy body throw from Francisco left Ross dumped on the floor as the bell rang.
Second round starts with Ross throwing some loose shots, allowing Trinaldo to take his chances to land some effective counters in between, leading the fight to the cage wall. Trinaldo looked the noticeably better of the two midway throughout the second, landing a stiff teap kick to his opponents midsection, followed by another hard kick.
Trinaldo continued the punishment he dealt out in the first and second rounds, leaving Pearson with room to mount a strong response, his only saving grace being the strong body kicks he landed
Result | Francisco Trinaldo def. Ross Pearson via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 30-27)
Patrick Cote vs. Ben Saunders
The first round saw Ben Saunders using his range advantage well, utilising his leg long kicks to create space between the two. However Cote utilised the inside leg kicks to neutralise the distance well, manoeuvring the fight to the ground where he felt comfortable off his back. From this position Cote caught Sanders in a dangerous arm bar, that his opponent managed to escape, but not before eating some short strikes from Cote.
Cote ended the round in the clinch landing a flurry of clean strikes, dropping Saunders with a quick succession of extremely short uppercuts to the jaw.
Result | Patrick Cote def. Ben Saunders via TKO (punches) at 1:14 of round two
Tim Boetsch vs. Ed Herman
Tim Boetsch landed the more decent strikes in the first round of this one, but nothing worth any significant mention, besides a left hand that let Herman know he was in a fight. He responded with a good knee of his own, but nothing more. Boetsch taking the first round on work rate, using his head movement to stay out of trouble.
The second round started the same with both men trading glancing shots, until Herman found himself in the clinch where he began throwing some seriously big knees – catching Boetsch clean on the chin – and the KO was Hermans as soon as Tim hit the floor.
Result | Ed Herman def. Time Boetsch via KO (knees) at 1:39 of round one
Chris Wade vs. Mehdi Baghdad
The first round started quickly with both fighters throwing some establishing shots, before Wade landed a good takedown early into the first. Baghdad’s ground defence kept him out of trouble for the majority of the time Wade was in top position, minus the few elbows he managed to sneak through. Wade controlled top position for the majority of the round before catching Mehdi Baghdad in another rear naked choke.
Result | Chris Wade def. Mehdi Baghdad via Submission (rear-naked choke) at 4:30 of round one
Maximo Blanco vs. Luke Sanders
Maximo Blanco begun the round landing some strong leg kicks that left damage to Sanders left leg early on, causing a knockdown that he also capitalised on, earning top position briefly. Sanders returned with some leg kicks of his own, following up with a group of short counter punches – finishing the fight with a strong left hook that rocked Blanco – knocking him down, where Sanders jumped to his back for the nights second rear naked choke finish.
Sanders put in a strong performance, not only fighting above his weight class, but winning via a solid submission victory, the second of his career.
Result | Luke Sanders def. Maximo Blanco Via Submission (rear-naked choke) at 3:38 of round one
UFC Fight Pass Early Prelims
Paul Felder vs. Daron Cruickshank
Cruickshank and Felder both came out swinging in the first round, neither really landing anything except a selection of leg kicks – mainly from Felder – which began to leave some marks mid-way through the round. Both fighters earned takedowns of their own, with Felder jumping up for a tight guillotine choke that almost took the fight early on, but Cruickshank managed to break free and see out the round.
Round two started with both fighters trying to land their own kicks respectively, neither having much success, but the damage from Felder’s begun to show on Cruickshank’s outer thigh. Although he turned it around by applying the pressure to Felder after a takedown which kept him up against the cage. Cruickshank saw out the fight landing a strong spinning fist followed with a stinging side kick to the face of Paul Felder.
Felder’s strong leg kick opened the third round which straight away lead into him applying the pressure to Cruickshank against the cage. Earning another successful takedown in the process, Felder continued to apply pressure from the top position, seeing out the round with a tight rear naked choke, the first submission victory of his career.
Result | Paul Felder def. Daron Cruickshank via Submission (rear-naked choke) at 3:56 of round three
Ilir Latifi vs. Sean O’Connell
The first round opened with both fighters looking for the big opening strike, Ilir Latifi landed it first. A strong right hand that rocked O’Connell badly – putting him to the floor – but not before he ate another hard right. Ilir Latifi demonstrating his power and earning himself another first round knockout in the process. Potential KO of the night bonus contender right there.
Result | Ilir Latifi def. Sean O’Connell via KO (punches) at :30 of round one
Charles Rosa vs. Kyle Bochniak
Rosa came into the fight setting up almost all of his shots with his leading front kick, but he ate a strong shot from Bochniak early on. Both fighters landed a few of their own throughout the first, Rosa mainly earning points from his body kicks – that left some bruising – and Bochniak finding some success with his strong right hands, that connected more than Rosa’s corner would have liked.
The second round started the same as the first with both Rosa and Bochniak finding success with their respective strikes, Rosa’s kicks leaving some noticeable damage to the body and legs of Bochniak. Who, in his defence, landed a few of his hands on Rosa throughout the exchanges too. Both fighters earned successful takedowns in the second round, Bochniak the more aggressive with his to close out the round.
The third round started off with all of the tenacity of the last two rounds, but both fighters seemed to find their range better, Bochniak ending up pretty bloodied up early on. Rosa’s leg kicks had begun to leave serious damage at this point, with Bochniak struggling to check any thing that came his way. Both fighters landing 64 strikes at this point, leaving it all in the ring, and to the judges decision. A tough fight earning both competitors a round of applause from the crowd, not to mention Bochniak’s solid performance on four days notice.
Result | Charles Rosa def. Kyle Bochniak via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Rob Font vs. Joey Gomez
Font came out strong in the first round – with both fighters feeling one another out early on – however Font landed the more significant strikes. Opening with a collection of strong teap kicks and straight rights that landed well. Gomez responded well in the clinch landing some short elbows of his own, as well as demonstrating his balance in his solid takedown defence.
The second round saw both fighters landing an array of decent strikes: Gomez with a spinning round kick to the body, and Font with his own plethora of strikes that ultimately ended the fight. Finishing with a strong left hand that rocked Gomez, backing him up against the cage where he felt the wrath of an on fire Rob Font.
Result | Rob Font def. Joey Gomez via TKO (punches) at 4:13 of round two
Francimar Barroso vs. Elvis Mutapcic
Opening fight of the night started out slow with Mutapcic and Barroso both feeling each other out, neither really landing anything significant. Barroso seemed to have to wind up on every shot he threw, leaving Mutapcic opportunities to land his own strikes, but he didn’t take them.
Both Barroso and Mutapcic had their favoured strikes – Barroso with his lead left landing flush – causing a small cut. Equally Mutapcic caught Barroso with a good body kick early on too, but neither causing any noticeable damage. Both fighters go the distance in a close, but ultimately uneventful fight.
Result | Francimar Barroso def. Elvis Mutapcic via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 30-27)