For over eight years, no one touched Dominick Cruz in a fight. On Friday night at T-Mobile Arena, Cody Garbrandt figured out the seemingly unsolvable puzzle, winning a five-round unanimous decision over Cruz to win the UFC bantamweight title, capping off a heated build-up to the bout with a masterful performance that ended with Bruce Buffer saying, “And new…”
“I’ve been waiting to hear that and visualized that since I was 12 years old and first watched the UFC,” said Garbrandt, who promptly put his new championship belt around the waist of Maddux Maple, the young cancer survivor who has been an integral part of the new titleholder’s rise to prominence. “It’s been a great journey.”
More from UFC 207: Full results | Nunes retains crown with shocking Rousey KO | Postfight press conference highlights | Garbrandt stuns Cruz to win championship | Garbrandt gives championship to cancer survivor | Dillashaw, Kim, Borg go distance for wins | Magny, Garcia among Prelim winners at UFC 207
Backstage interviews: Amanda Nunes | Cody Garbrandt | Dominick Cruz | TJ Dillashaw | Ray Borg | Neil Magny | Tim Means
Octagon interviews: Amanda Nunes | Cody Garbrandt
UFC FIGHT PASS subscribers: Watch Tim Means vs Charles Oliveira on-demand | Order UFC 207 digital replay
After this victory, a new journey will be beginning for the 25-year-old, who had an answer for every question posed to him by the 31-year-old Cruz, who had won 13 straight leading into the UFC 207 co-main event.
“He’s one of the best in the world,” Garbrandt said of Cruz. “Now I’m the best in the world, so anyone can get it. (No. 1 contender and former teammate) TJ Dillashaw, come try me.”
Scores were 48-46 twice and 48-47 for Urichsville, Ohio’s Garbrandt, now 11-0; San Diego’s Cruz falls to 22-2.
Garbrandt was calm, cool and collected in his first world title fight, refusing to get frustrated by Cruz’ in and out movement as he fired kicks to the champion’s legs in order to slow that movement. With 90 seconds remaining, Cruz scored a quick takedown to switch things up, and once the two rose, he landed his best shots of the round, drawing some mocking retorts from Garbarandt, who scored his own takedown in the closing seconds.
The two traded flush lefts in the opening minute of round two, Cruz getting the better of the exchange as Garbrandt’s glove touched the mat, but the Ohio native recovered quickly. From there, it was compelling back and forth action, each fighter getting in his share of shots.
Early in round three, Garbrandt scored with a few rights, but it was a clash of heads that cut Cruz over the left eye. Regardless of the reason for the cut, it seemed to amp Garbrandt up, as he began to get more aggressive with power shots that were landing with even more frequency. With under two minutes left, a right dropped Cruz, but the champion jumped up immediately and got back into the fray. His punches were sailing by the elusive challenger, who was taking Cruz into deep waters.
A minute into the fourth round, another thudding right hand put Cruz on the deck, and again, it was Cruz jumping up as soon as he hit the floor. It was clear that Cruz needed to figure Garbrandt out if he wanted to keep his crown, and he went about that business but was unable to crack the code as Garbrandt fought with the confidence of a champion in the making, knocking Cruz down three more times in the final minute of the frame.
Refusing to give up his belt without a fight, Cruz marched forward with a purpose in the final round, landing some hard shots on the challenger, who was in the championship rounds for the first time in his career. In the final minute, the two clinched for the first time, Garbrandt locking Cruz up against the fence, but the two broke with 20 seconds left, and while there was no heated exchange to end the bout, the two did finally shake hands in a clear sign of respect that only 25 minutes of fighting can produce.