B$Z: Monster's Dominick Cruz Cements Legacy & Makes Historic Return to Reclaim UFC Bantamweight Belt
Monster Energy’s Dominick Cruz makes a storybook return to reclaim his bantamweight title with a split-decision win against now-former champion TJ Dillashaw at TD Garden in Boston.
Sidelined from his sport for nearly four years, and stripped of his Bantamweight belt because of a series of career-derailing injuries, Cruz, San Diego, California, stormed the east coast looking to take back his belt against a new and supremely confident champion in TJ Dillashaw.
Before injury befell Cruz, he had been one of the young dominant forces in MMA collecting 21 pro wins out of 22 fights as a WEC and then UFC Champion. But after three ACL surgeries and a torn quadriceps, with only a single fight that lasted barely a minute in nearly 4-years, critics questioned going right after the belt and not taking a tune-up fight.
Cruz defiantly maintained, “There’s no such thing as ring rust. Rust only exists if you don’t train hard enough.” On Sunday, January 17th he stepped into the Octagon to prove it.
In a fight that UFC commentator Joe Rogan heralded as one of the most interesting fights of 2016, and the most important fight in UFC Bantamweight history, the former and current champions met inside the Squared Circle and together put on one of the most technical, and back and forth striking clinics in the ever-evolving world of modern MMA. You can’t hit, what you can’t see and Cruz was always just a step ahead of Dillashaw with superior footwork, lateral, and in-and-out movement, and crisp counterstrikes.
Dillashaw who has emulated much of Cruz’s footwork gave a great effort in an amazingly competitive affair landing hard single blows and a plethora of kicks. And although Dillashaw’s leg kicks visibly slowed Cruz in rounds four and five, they were also to his detriment.
“He threw a lot of kicks, and anybody who throws a lot of kicks, I'm going to make you pay for them” said Cruz who landed three takedowns on Dillashaw, who until then, held a perfect takedown defense record inside the Octagon.
After five thrilling back-and-forth rounds Cruz re-emerged as the 135-pound Champion with a split decision win over Dillashaw and victoriously took his belt back. A belt that ironically, no fighter has ever taken from him, it had simply been lost to injury. While Dillishaw’s camp is shouting for an immediate rematch, there is much speculation the long awaited rubber-match between Cruz and Uriah Faber (the only fighter to beat him), which was supposed to culminate at the end of their coaching tenure on The Ultimate Fighter before Cruz’s injury, is the match up UFC fans want to see.
Dominick “Dominator” Cruz is one of Monster Energy’s elite MMA athletes along with Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey, Chris “All-American” Weidman, Anthony “Showtime” Pettis, Johny “Bigg Rigg’ Hendricks, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Rory MacDonald, Cain Velasquez, and Daniel Cormier.