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Benavidez Calls Rematch with Cruz ‘Destiny’

Dominick Cruz file photo: Dave Mandel | Sherdog.com


At the very least, Joseph Benavidez said he’ll get the opportunity to avenge his only career loss when he face Dominick Cruz at WEC 50 on Aug. 18 in Las Vegas. However, it’s the promotion’s 135-pound title that the Team Alpha Male fighter really has in his sights.

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Cruz walked away with a unanimous decision victory over Benavidez at WEC 42 a year ago and won the WEC 135-pound title in his next fight, beating Brian Bowles at WEC 47 in March when the doctor stopped the fight after two rounds. Benavidez has rebounded with back-to-back victories in that year.

"Winning the title is a bigger motivation to me, but I'm glad I get a chance at both things I want," said Benavidez during a teleconference call Tuesday. "Winning the title was the first thing I wanted when I got into the sport. Ever since I signed the contract for this fight, I just thought about that moment. If that wasn't enough, I get a chance to avenge my only loss. I couldn't have written it any better. It's like it's destiny."

The 26-year-old Benavidez, who has seven submissions and 10 finishes in his 12 wins, rebounded from the loss to Cruz by knocking out Rani Yahya in the first round at WEC 45 in December 2009 and then submitting Miguel Torres with a guillotine choke in the second round at WEC 47 in March. The Torres win propelled Benavidez into a title shot, and Benavidez said everyone will see a different fighter when he steps into the cage to face Cruz.

"I've changed a lot physically and mentally (since the first fight)," said Benavidez, who trains with Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, Calif. "The obvious difference in the first fight was his takedowns. The battle on the feet was great, but he got some takedowns and scored points with them. What I'm going to do differently is just to prepare differently. I thought I could go in and not train for somebody specific, but when you face somebody with a style like Dominick's, you have to change that."

The 25-year-old Cruz, who was sidelined since the Bowles win with torn tendons and ligaments, as well as a hairline fracture in his hand, comes into the title fight riding a six-fight winning streak.

Cruz said he's seen differences in Benavidez in his two fights since the WEC 42 matchup.

"(Benavidez) has put a little bit of weight on," said Cruz. "He's bigger than he was. Both of us have gotten older and that makes it harder to make weight, but I think we'll both be on weight. I'm just going to have to adjust the things I beat him with before. I think he underestimated a lot of things about me last time and I just have to be ready for the best Joseph Benavidez I can."

Facing the same fighter for the second time in a year doesn't make things harder, Cruz said. In fact, he's going in with the mindset that he's not the defending champion.

"To me, this fight is just like the first fight a year ago," said Cruz. "He was a tough opponent then and he's a tough opponent now. I'm going out thinking I don't have the title and I have to win it again. My goals are being the best fighter in the world in my weight class and proving it and on Aug. 18, I plan to go out and prove I'm the best." In other notes:

• WEC General Manager Reed Harris said the fights pitting Shane Roller against Anthony Pettis and Scott Jorgensen versus Brad Pickett could be considered No. 1 contender fights at 155 and 135 pounds, respectively.

"(The winner of each fight) is extremely close to title shots," said Harris. "It depends on how they look and if there are any injuries. Both of these are top contender fights and the winners could possibly fight for a title. Our philosophy is just to watch and see how they do."

• Harris said Urijah Faber's move to 135 pounds was "definitely Urijah's idea. We'd talked about him for a long time about him being able to make 135, but he still had fights he wanted at 145."

• The possibility of an all-Team Alpha Male bantamweight title fight between Benavidez and Faber was ruled out by Benavidez, but Harris wouldn't rule out the possibility.

"When it comes to two teammates fighting each other, we'll cross that bridge when we get there," Harris said. "I want the best fights for the WEC, and if that means teammates fight, we'll cross that bridge when we get there."
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