Standout performances from Dominick Cruz and Joseph Benavidez at WEC 47 Saturday in Columbus, Ohio, have all but ensured an anticipated rematch between the bantamweight pair on a future card.
Cruz, who outworked Benavidez for a unanimous decision last August, defeated Brian Bowles over two rounds to take the WEC 135-pound title. Benavidez submitted former champion Miguel Torres earlier that evening in his most mature performance to date.
“I’d love to go in there and avenge my only loss against Dominick,” said Benavidez at the WEC 47 post-fight press conference. “It was a tough fight. I think it was a great fight for the fans and we put on a great show. We both could have gone two more rounds -- it was a three-round fight -- and I’d love to do that.”
The 24-year-old Cruz, now atop a deep division that’s seen the title change hands between three fighters in the last seven months, was also open to a second bout with Team Alpha Male’s Benavidez.
“I’ve fought him already and I’m down to fight him again,” said Cruz. “I’ll fight whoever the WEC puts in front of me. If you’re a r real champion -- I’ve never picked my fights.”
Reed Harris, the WEC’s general manager, said the promotion has no immediate plans for its newest champion, but would convene next week to begin discussing options.
“We really don’t talk a lot about where we’re going with fights until the fights happen,” said Harris. “It’s one of these things I’ve learned from doing this a long time -- don’t make plans, because anything could happen out there.”
Anything did happen in the cage Saturday. Cruz, a wrestler by trade, wasn’t expected to out-slug rock-steady Georgian Bowles, who most thought had the edge in striking power. However, Cruz’ angular footwork kept him constantly in motion, allowing him to beat out many of the exchanges.
After two dominant rounds, Cruz felt that with the way the fight was unfolding, he’d be able to finish Bowles in the next two stanzas. He never had to fulfill his own prediction, as the fight was called between the second and third rounds on account of Bowles’ injured hand.
“I had his timing down. I had his rhythm,” said Cruz. “Things were coming together and you can just see it someone’s eyes when the fight’s going to turn. I felt to go in for the kill and I was going to continue to do so until I finished. I was determined to finish this fight.”
Cruz, who’s now won five bouts in a row in the WEC, credited his preparation and game-planning for the victory.
“I wasn’t sure I was just going to go in there and just pick somebody apart,” said Cruz. “I had confidence in what I was going to do and I just make sure that my training partners are beasts -- 155 pounds and they all hit hard and they move fast and they’re all maniacs at Alliance Training Center.”
Likewise, Benavidez wasn’t heavily figured to supplant the aggressive Torres, who was hungry for the opportunity to reclaim the title he lost to Bowles back in August.
“After the first round, when I went back to my corner, I just felt really good,” said Benavidez. "I saw his jabs. I saw everything he was throwing. I felt faster and that was kind of a turning point after that first round. I just realized that I’d seen everything and I know I can do this and I just went out there and believed in myself.”
What was even more of a surprise was the method Benavidez used to stop Torres. Benavidez, who wrestled for one year in college before dropping out to join Urijah Faber’s fight team in Sacramento, Calif., grabbed ahold of Torres’ neck for a guillotine choke in a frantic scramble after Torres had been cut by his opponent’s elbow strike.
“It was a pretty tight choke,” said the 25-year-old Benavidez. “I think most people would have tapped or passed out, so I’m not surprised (he tapped out). It was surprising getting the submission, that it was open, but I saw it. That’s something I’d envisioned and it just happened.”