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Dominick Cruz Regains UFC Bantamweight Title in Split Decision Victory over T.J. Dillashaw

BOSTON—Dominick Cruz regained the bantamweight title he never lost in the octagon in a split-decision victory over T.J. Dillashaw early Monday morning at TD Garden.

Dominick Cruz and T.J. Dillashaw do not touch gloves to start their fight. But they quickly touch each other once the bout begins.

The champ opens up aggressively. A wild Dillashaw kick nearly two minutes in sends him down and Cruz capitalizes before the men stand. Cruz lands a hard, looping left past the halfway mark and scores on a solid punch combination with 90 ticks left in an action-packed first.

Dillashaw the aggressor in the second but Cruz utilizing elite footwork and head movement to elude punches. Two minutes in Dillashaw scores with a solid right. Champ lands a kick and the challenger responds with his fists. Cruz scores consecutive takedowns but Dillashaw quickly stands.

Dillashaw finds his rhythm  in the third. Cruz takes Dillashaw down with less than two minutes to go in the round, which causes a mad scramble. The champ lands a high kick to Cruz’s jaw late. Cruz answers with a solid combo and by landing a looping shot to end the frame.

Cruz brings Dillashaw to the mat again in the fourth but mainly scores by not being scored upon. He’s MMA’s Mayweather. After a scramble in which Dillashaw nearly applies a choke, the champion knees Cruz’s legs against the cage.

Dominck Cruz 2

Crowd erupts in appreciation for the last round. Dillashaw landing kicks and punches on a slowed-down Cruz. The challenger throws a weak spinning backfist. He does better storming forward near the one-minute mark. But Dillashaw returns fire and the crowd roars in the last 30 seconds.

The judges award a split-decision victory to Dominick Cruz on scores of 48-47 Cruz, 49-46 Dillashaw, and 49-46 Cruz.

Co-Main Event

Eddie Alvarez dumps Anthony Pettis on his back early in their lightweight bout. Much ado about nothing as Alvarez grinds Pettis against the cage for an uncomfortably long time. Pettis lands some kicks to the midsection but Alvarez controls the round. In the second, Pettis scores with his left leg to Alvarez’s face early. The tough Philadelphian wants a dirty-boxing or a wrestling match. But when he stands with Pettis in the second he holds his own. In the third, Alvarez follows up a takedown by fending off a submission attempt and meting out punishment. After Showtime rises, Alvarez scores a trip takedown but Pettis stands before taking any damage. Alvarez’s strategy of grinding away drawing boos but winning the fight. The judges split, offering a razor-thin 29-28 Alvarez, 29-28 Pettis, and 29-28 Alvarez decision.

Main Card

Matt Mitrione and Travis Browne smile at one another in anticipation of their heavyweight bout between two athletes with knockout power. The pair play patty cake with no significant strikes until Hapa connects with a kick to Mitrione’s head halfway through. Business picks up and both men throw with bad intentions. Meathead knocks Browne to the mat with a solid left cross. With about ten seconds left Browne pokes Mitrione in the eye that results in a halt to the action. Meathead aggressive to start the second and both men connect. Meathead complains of another eyepoke—the replay shows a thumb—and eventually the ref stops the action. Browne hits Mitrione awkwardly and takes him down. Mitrione rises quickly. But the strange exchange may give Browne the round. Both men land solid straight punches that score in the opening minutes of the third but do little else. Browne the dramatically slams Mitrione, cut now near the right eye, to the mat and seizes top position, effectively raining down punches from full mount. Meathead, sporting a massive hematoma, offers no answers and the referee calls off the bout with 52 seconds remaining in the fight.

Matt Mitrione Hematoma

Ross Pearson lands a thudding high kick to the side of Francisco Trinaldo’s head in the first found of the opening bout of the main card televised on Fox Sports 1. The Brazilian brings out the boo birds through his circling. Trinaldo lands a knee with a minute remaining that elicits an immediate punch. Finally, Trinaldo explodes, unleashing a left kick to Pearson’s head and elevating him before slamming him with seconds left in the round. In the middle round, Pearson grabs a Trinaldo kick and forces his opponent on his back 90 seconds in but the Brazilian rises 20 seconds later. Trinaldo using knees to inflict damage on the side of the cage. The Ultimate Fighter: Season 9-winner proves game but the Brazilian gets the better of the exchanges. The Brit cut above the left eye to begin the third. Pearson catches another kick halfway through the third and dumps his opponent. Massaranduba rises 30 seconds later with minimal damage. He circles again, to the displeasure of the spectators, as he did in the first. The judges see the bout 30-27, 30-27, and 29-28 for Trinaldo.

Preliminary Bouts

Ben Saunders lands a trip takedown on Patrick Cote near the halfway mark of the first frame in the last preliminary bout. After a Cote submission attempt from the bottom, they reverse positions, with the Canadian more effective from above than the American. The Predator lives up to his nickname early in the second. He lands a series of blows that fell Saunders like a tree. Cote doesn’t let up on the ground, making a stoppage inevitable at 1:14 of the second round. No punch on its own inflicts terrible damage but the accumulation of damage from strike after strike ends Saunders’ night.

Tim Boetsch nails Ed Herman with a vicious overhand right in the first round of their light heavyweight battle. Herman looks dazed, blinking and operating on autopilot. Boetsch connects with a left uppercut at the two-minute mark. Short fuse recovers and dishes out punishment. In the second, he hurts Boetsch with a knee that drops him. Obligatory strikes follow and the ref intervenes at 1:39 in the second stanza.

“With the sport getting cleaned up, it’s a fair playing field, finally,” Herman commented on his move to 205. “I’ve been a clean fighter my whole career.”

Ed Herman UFC

Lightweight Chris Wade lands an early takedown on Mehdi Baghdad and meting out ground-and-pound for several minutes to sporadic “USA” chants. The American grabs the Sultan’s back, sinking in a rear-naked choke that forces a quick submission at 4:30 of the first round.

Luke Sanders dropped Maximo Blanco in the first round of their featherweight fight with a left before capitalizing with a rear-naked choke that forced the Venezuelan fighting out of Tokyo to tap at 3:38. Sanders improves to 11-0 while Blanco falls to 12-7-1.

In a battle of high-level taekwondo, Daron Cruickshank attempts a slam only to nearly get choked out by Paul Felder in the first round of their lightweight tilt. Both men quickly resort to their specialties and put on a striking clinic with Cruickshank landing a spinning kick to the body and finishing the round in top position. Felder dumps Cruickshank in the second and administers punishment for a minute until Cruickshank rises and unleashes “ooohs” and “aaahs” with head kicks and spinning backfists. Felder spends most of the rest of the round in control with an inverted triangle cutting off circulation to Cruickshank’s arm and beyond. In the third, Felder muscles the Detroit Superstar against the cage before dumping him on his back and administering ground-and-pound starting at about the halfway point in the round. The Irish Dragon takes his back and sets in a deep guillotine choke that coaxes a tap from Cruickshank.

Ilir Latifi makes quick work of Sean O’Connell with a looping overhand right that buckles than drops the Real OC. The referee calls a halt 30 seconds in. O’Connell offers an obligatory protest. He doesn’t look hurt. But he did ten seconds earlier.

Boston-area featherweight Kyle Bochniak knocked down fellow local Charles Rosa early and pursued him for much of the round before tagging him again and attempting to finish him when he dropped. Rosa defended well with a leglock submission attempt and later taking Bochniak down briefly. Rosa enjoys a much better second round, softening Bochniak with kicks and taking him down before Bochniak turns the tables and takes him down. Bochniak hurts Rosa with overhand rights before Rosa rallies in the third. Old-school hockey breaks out in the home of the Boston Bruins as both men tee off. The judges award a unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27) to Charles “Boston Strong” Rosa.

Rob Font wrestled Joey Gomez to the mat three times and hurt him with strikes, including a spinning elbow, in the first round of their bantamweight bout. Font let his legs go before hurting Gomez with strikes in the second. Gomez mercifully landed a takedown to buy more time but soon after they rose Gomez fell. Herb Dean called the fight off at 4:13 of round two for the local favorite. Font improves to 12-1 and Gomez drops to 6-1.

Light heavyweight Francimar Barroso took Elvis Mutapcic down in the first round of the evening’s first fight only to endure elbows from the Bosnian’s guard. The Brazilian opened cuts over his opponent’s right eye and on his mouth in the second. Mutapcic enjoyed his best round in the third but it proved too little, too late as the judges awarded Barroso a sweep on the scorecards.

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