Read on for Fight Night Boston main event results...
It’s appropriate that on Muhammad Ali’s 74th birthday, Dominick Cruz floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee against TJ Dillashaw, regaining the UFC bantamweight title he never lost in the Octagon with a five-round split decision at TD Garden in Boston.
Scores were 49-46, 48-47 and 46-49 for Cruz, who was forced to relinquish his title in January of 2014 due to a series of debilitating injuries. Sunday, he got it back in his first fight since a 61-second knockout of Takeya Mizugaki in September of 2014. For the 30-year-old Cruz, it was no surprise.
“The only thing surprising is that I had to show something of myself,” he said. “It wasn’t what he (Dillashaw) had for me, because I swear I’ve seen different guys that move like him. DJ (Demetrious Johnson) is faster, (Joseph) Benavidez hits hard, (Urijah) Faber – as much as I don’t like him – is a tough guy. All these guys built me into what I am right now. And TJ just added to that. Now I’m at another level.”
Refusing to touch gloves with Cruz, Dillashaw wanted to get down to business immediately, firing off a few kicks as Cruz responded with a quick takedown. After rising, Dillashaw pursued Cruz but got tagged with several shots, forcing him to reset and slow things down a bit. With the exception of a few moments where he got caught by the champion, Cruz’ defense and timing was spot on, and he showed no signs of ring rust. And while Dillashaw attempted a late takedown, Cruz held him off.
Cruz continued to frustrate Dillashaw’s attacks in round two, avoiding most of the champion’s incoming fire and countering back effectively. Dillashaw was able to score with kicks to the leg, but Cruz wasn’t being slowed down yet. Dillashaw remained aggressive, but it cost him, as Cruz scored two takedowns. Dillashaw bounced back up as soon as he hit the deck both times, but they were point scorers for Cruz.
More from Fight Night Boston: Full results | Post-fight bonus recap | WATCH: Dana White’s final verdict | Talking Points after Boston | #ANDNEW! Cruz beats Dillashaw by split decision | Faber agrees Cruz won; Doesn’t want Dillashaw fight | Alvarez gets close win, Browne and Trinaldo also victorious | Felder delivers when he needs it most | Cote, Hernan get big TKO’s in prelims | Latifi, Rosa among early winners on FIGHT PASS | Watch the FIGHT PASS prelims here | Octagon interviews: Dominick Cruz, Dominick Cruz and TJ Dillashaw, Paul Felder | Backstage interviews: Eddie Alvarez, Travis Browne, Patrick Cote, Ed Herman, Luke Sanders | Best Images from Fight Night Boston
Fatigue appeared to be becoming an issue with Cruz in the third, as he fought with his mouth wide open, but the now flat-footed Dillashaw wasn’t able to take as much advantage of this as he wanted to, as it was Cruz delivering with another takedown. Dillashaw did get in some shots throughout the round, but he was missing more than landing, and it was Cruz who landed with a three-punch combination and a hard right in the closing stages of the round.
Dillashaw got off a hard kick to the leg in the second minute of round four, leading to a Cruz takedown. When the fighters stood, Dillashaw was getting more opportunities to land as Cruz slowed down, and he even picked up his first takedown of the fight. By the end of the round, both fighters were showing the wear of the battle on their face, and the crowd roared as the fifth and final round approached.
Finally getting into a rhythm, Dillashaw began landing hard shots when he needed them in the final round, one kick prompting Cruz to fire back with a flashy combination. Now the fight was going to be fought at close range, as the two looked to best each other. Dillashaw’s leg kicks were his most effective weapon, but Cruz hung tough as the seconds ticked away, firing off combinations in spurts as he looked to make a final impression on the judges. And he did.
“I’m very disappointed,” Dillashaw said. “I thought I had that fight. I thought I was the aggressor, I pushed the pace, scored with the bigger shots. It’s my fault, I left it in the hands (of the judges).”
With the win, San Diego’s Cruz, who has not lost since 2007, improves to 21-1. Denver’s Dillashaw, 29, falls to 13-3.