The Ultimate Fighting Championship bantamweight crown once again belongs to Dominick Cruz.
The oft-injured Cruz reclaimed the title he never lost with a split decision over T.J. Dillashaw in the UFC Fight Night “Dillashaw vs. Cruz” headliner on Sunday at the TD Garden in Boston. Scores were 48-47 and 49-46 for Cruz, 49-46 for Dillashaw. Together, they produced a 25-minute display of marvelous technique and fortitude.
Cruz (21-1, 4-0 UFC) shook off the rust from another extended injury-induced layoff -- he had fought just once in the previous 1,569 days -- and got down to business with surgical counterpunches and elusive movement. Dillashaw was left to throw single shots and whiffed often during many of the early exchanges, as the Alliance MMA cornerstone bobbed, weaved and circled out of danger. Cruz supplemented his work on the feet with takedowns in the second, third and fourth rounds, as he managed to ground a fighter who had never before been taken down in UFC competition.
Despite the difficulties Cruz presented for him, Dillashaw (12-3, 8-3 UFC) kept applying the pressure. He shifted the momentum in his favor in the fourth round, where he connected with a crippling leg kick, delivered a takedown of his own and punished Cruz in the clinch. Dillashaw picked up where he left off in the fifth, as he followed a clean right hand upstairs with a partially blocked head kick. With Cruz compromised by an apparent foot injury, Dillashaw stayed busy down the stretch but failed to do enough to carry the scorecards.
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Alvarez Upsets ‘Showtime’ Pettis
In the lightweight co-main event, two-time Bellator MMA champion Eddie Alvarez followed his game plan to a split decision over Roufusport star Anthony Pettis. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28, two of them siding with Alvarez (27-4, 2-1 UFC).
Pettis (18-4, 5-3 UFC) had success at range, as he peppered the Blackzilians standout with punching combinations, occasional knees and kicks to the legs and body. Bleeding from his nose and from a cut near his left eye, Alvarez pursued a taxing clinch, kept his head glued to the Milwaukee native’s sternum and landed a series of takedowns that left Pettis drained and frustrated. His work paid dividends, giving him a signature victory inside the Octagon and putting him in the conversation as a title contender at 155 pounds.
The 28-year-old Pettis has suffered consecutive defeats for the first time in his career.
Browne Bludgeons Mitrione for Late Stoppage
Glendale Fighting Club’s Travis Browne put away Matt Mitrione with sustained ground-and-pound from the mount in the third round of their featured heavyweight battle. His right eye grotesquely swollen from recurring abuse, Mitrione (9-5, 9-5 UFC) succumbed to blows 4:09 into round three.
An even fight through two rounds, it turned into a rout in the third. Browne (18-3-1, 9-3-1 UFC) stuck the Purdue University graduate with a clean right hand that immediately blew up the eye -- the same eye in which Mitrione had been poked twice earlier in the fight; Browne was not penalized for either foul. The Hawaiian followed with a violent slam takedown that seemed to injure Mitrione’s shoulder and moved immediately to mount. A volley of unanswered punches and elbows came next and continued until referee Gary Forman decided the Blackzilians rep could endure no more.
Mitrione has lost back-to-back bouts.
Surging Trinaldo Outduels Pearson
Former Jungle Fight champion Francisco Trinaldo posted his fifth straight victory, as he captured a unanimous decision over Alliance MMA export Ross Pearson in a three-round lightweight showcase. All three cageside judges scored it for Trinaldo (19-4, 9-3 UFC): 30-27, 29-28 and 30-27.
Pearson (18-10, 10-7 UFC) never seemed at ease with the Brazilian’s combination of circular movements and power. The Brit countered effectively at times, but his moments were few and far between. Trinaldo slammed kicks into his legs, body and head and wowed the crowd with a high-amplitude slam at the end of the first round. His straight left hand also found its intended mark more than once.
“Massaranduba” faded in the third round, as his offensive output dwindled. However, Pearson could not produce the finish he needed. He has alternated wins and losses in his last seven appearances.