For the first defense of his World Extreme Cagefighting bantamweight belt, Dominick Cruz faced Joseph Benavidez at WEC 50 on Aug. 18, 2010. It was a rematch of their first meeting, which had taken place the previous August at WEC 42. That first meeting had been a fast-paced, lively affair, winning “Fight of the Night” honors despite having been a fairly straightforward three-round sweep for “The Dominator.”
Both men had prospered since that night: Cruz won the title in his next fight, outclassing Brian Bowles badly for two rounds before the fight was stopped on account of Bowles’ broken hand. On the same card, Benavidez had made a similarly emphatic statement, bloodying former champ Miguel Torres with vicious elbows before tapping him out with a second-round guillotine choke. The stage was set for a five-round rematch, with Cruz’s belt on the line.
The rematch was not quite as action-packed as the first fight, but was much, much closer. Almost all of the rounds were individually difficult to score, as Benavidez found ways to navigate Cruz’s tricky footwork and much greater reach in order to land punches. After five rounds, and with Cruz bleeding profusely from a busted nose, the champ retained his title by split decision.
Within a year, the WEC was absorbed by its big brother, the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Cruz would carry the title to the Octagon as the inaugural 135-pound champion—as a note of trivia, his win over Scott Jorgensen at WEC 53 is the only UFC title fight ever to take place outside the UFC.Cruz went on to rule the division for five more years, with his only true rival his own brittle health, before losing the belt to Cody Garbrandt in 2016.
Benavidez soon dropped to flyweight, where he was the odds-on favorite to win the UFC’s four-man tourney to crown a champ in the new division, but was edged out by future flyweight overlord Demetrious Johnson. Benavidez often comes up on lists of the most accomplished fighters never to win a belt in a major promotion, but while his four unsuccessful title challenges in the UFC are fresher in the memory, his nearest miss might have been in that second Cruz fight, 10 years ago today.