By Niall Clarke

  • Dominick Cruz defeats TJ Dillashaw by split decision to regain the Bantamweight title
  • Eddie Alvarez defeats Anthony Pettis via split decision
  • Matt Mitrione suffers brutal eye injury in his fight with Travis Browne

Boston, Massachusetts- Dominick Cruz is once again the UFC Bantamweight champion after a split decision victory over TJ Dillashaw at UFC Fight Night 81.

*WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES*

It was like he never left. Three ACL surgeries, a torn groin, a stripped title, and pretty much four years away and yet, the champion is back on his throne.

Cruz did not dominate the fight, but the 30 year old remained elusive, quick and as usual the winner. It was a close fight as evident by the judges scorecards, which were split. Two judges had it 48-47 and 49-46 for Cruz, with the third scoring it 49-46 for Dillashaw.

From the get-go it was evident that ‘The Dominator’ was up to his old tricks. Cruz is one of the best movers in the sport and proved difficult to hit as always. The first pivotal moment came when Dillashaw slipped on a head kick attempt. He was taken down briefly later, but the 29 year old soon got back to his feet.

Cruz continued to be in control through the second round, landing two takedowns towards the end of the frame. Round three was much of the same with Cruz landing another takedown and a big shot at the end of the round.

The Champion was arguably three rounds down heading into the Championship stanza’s, and he responded in kind. Dillashaw had landed some nice leg kicks in the third round which continued into the fourth. They visibly hurt the challenger and a takedown was followed by some big knees as Dillashaw was now in the ascendency. The champion fought valiantly into the final round but could not find the finish he was looking for, and Cruz came out a split decision victor.

The man who never lost his belt has it back round his waist. It is almost a Cinderella story of how Cruz overcame numerous injuries to make a successful return to the Octagon- that is the most admirable thing. Even if he came out the wrong side of the decision, Cruz fought a great fight which is incredible.

Alvarez controls Pettis towards decision victory

In the co main event of the evening, Eddie Alvarez put on a clinical and controlling performance to defeat Anthony Pettis via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) .

The former Bellator champion followed the blueprints left by Rafael Dos Anjos and Clay Guida and used effective pressure wrestling to negate Pettis’ striking. It was a war of attrition that could have been scored either way, but in the end pressure tolled.

It was not the stand-up contest that fight fans were expecting, but it was one of the best performances of Alvarez’s career. Now he will be in line for a UFC title shot, but with Conor McGregor confirmed to be Dos Anjos’ next opponent and Khabib Nurmagomedov in line, Alvarez might have to take another fight before his shot.

As for Pettis, he has suffered back to back defeats and might consider a move down to Featherweight to have a run at the 145lbs title. ‘Showtime’ has expressed an interest in cutting down to fight Jose Aldo when he was champion, so it seems like he is able to make weight.

Mitrione suffers horrific eye injury in Browne loss

Travis Browne might have defeated Matt Mitrione via TKO in the fourth round, but the fight was overshadowed by poor officiating and the damage it caused- literally.

What was a good contest between two fringe contenders at Heavyweight was quite frankly ruined by two eye pokes by Browne that completely altered the fight, and Mitrione’s face.

The illegal pokes were not penalised by referee Gary Foreman, and the Hawaiian took over the fight against his visually impaired opponent. In the final round Browne took #Meathead’ down and landed some ground and pound for the TKO victory.

By the end of the fight, Mitrione’s eye was grotesquely swollen in one of the more gruesome injuries in MMA history.

‘Hapa’ scores another win in the column and has put himself in the contender bracket for the Heavyweight crown. Mitrione on the other hand has completed his last fight on his UFC contract. Will he re-sign or head elsewhere?

Great Britain’s Ross Pearson suffered a unanimous decision loss to Francisco Trinaldo. The Brazilian, who has now won five fights In a row, outslugged the English in the three round fight to earn a 30-27, 30-27, 29,28 decision.

Full Results

Dominick Cruz def. TJ Dillashaw — decision (split) 49-46, 48-47, 46-49

Eddie Alvarez def. Anthony Pettis — decision (split) 29-28 x2, 28-29

Travis Browne def. Matt Mitrione — TKO (ground & pound) at 4:10 of rd 3

Francisco Trinaldo def Ross Pearson — unanimous decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)

Patrick Cote def. Ben Saunders — TKO (strikes) at 1:20 of rd 2

Ed Herman def. Tim Boetsch — TKO (knee)at 1:39 of rd 2

Chris Wade def. Mehdi Baghdad — Submission (RNC) at 4:30 of rd 1

Luke Sanders def. Maximo Blanco — Submission (RNC) at 3:38 of rd 1

Paul Felder def. Daron Cruickshank — Submission (RNC) at 3:56 of rd 3

Ilir Latifi def. Sean O’Connell — KO (punch) at 0:30 of rd 1

Charles Rosa def. Kyle Bochniak — unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)

Rob Font vs. Joey Gomez — TKO (strikes) at 4:13 of rd 2

Francimar Barroso def. Elvis Mutapcic — unanimous decision (30-27 x2, 29-28)

The UFC returns for UFC on Fox: Johnson vs Bader on January 30th.

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