LAS VEGAS – As expected, the pace was fast, and the action was non-stop between WEC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz and challenger Joseph Benavidez.
In a rematch between two of the best 135’ers in the world, neither guy could establish any consistent momentum during the bout, as both guys displayed their all around games on the big stage.
Cruz used his excellent footwork and head movement to keep Benavidez off balance, and used well timed takedowns to swing the fight in his favor throughout the five round bout.
Benavidez showed a granite chin, at one point taking a flying knee flush to the face, absorbing the strike and countering with a straight right hand to answer.
Once the fight did hit the ground, Benavidez used his quickness and ability in the scramble to get the fight back to the feet, and while clinched in the fourth round, landed a big knee to the face of Cruz opening up a gash across the bridge of the champion’s nose.
But it was the takedowns that would prove to be the difference for Cruz in a very closely contested title fight.
Cruz came out in the fifth with some urgency, taking the fight to the ground within seconds, but again, neither guy could establish any dominant positions for any extended amount of time.
After a back and forth battle for the first four rounds and deep into the final round, Cruz sealed the victory with a late takedown. Once the scores came in, the champion showed that he is the best in the world at 135 pounds, defending his title by split-decision via scores of 47-48, 48-47 and 49-46.
“Benavidez is a great competitor,” said Cruz. “I give him all the props in the world. He didn’t fall into the trash-talking of a lot of people. He was a very honorable fighter, and I respect him in every way.”
With the victory, Cruz moves to 16-1 overall and 6-1 in the WEC, extending his win streak to 7.
“I rank among the best in the world,” said Cruz. “There’s not a doubt in my mind.”
Anthony Pettis finishes Shane Roller via triangle, calls out Ben Henderson
Shane Roller was expected to come into this bout and be able to get the fight to the ground with little trouble.
Somebody forgot to tell that to Anthony Pettis.
Pettis repeatedly and consistently stuffed the takedown attempts of Roller, forcing him to fight a stand up battle. Surprisingly, it was Pettis that mixed in his own takedowns to get an early lead on the scorecards.
In the second round, Roller finally got his takedown and ended up in full mount, but Pettis used the cage to effectively kick off and roll, enabling him to get back to his feet and out of danger.
Pettis showed his wide-ranging stand up skills throughout the fight, with spinning back kicks and flashy combinations, but it was jiu jitsu 101 that gave him his impressive victory.
In the third round, Pettis landed a big punch that rocked Roller. Pettis followed Roller to the ground looking to finish but got caught in a tight guillotine attempt that looked like it could end his night. Pettis rolled out of the submission attempt and once Roller looked to do some work in his guard, Pettis threw up his legs and locked up a textbook triangle choke forcing Roller to tap with just 9 seconds to go in the fight.
The win was very impressive, moving Pettis to 11-1 overall and 3-1 in the WEC, but more importantly, the victory is likely to give Pettis a title shot at WEC lightweight champion Ben Henderson.
Chad Mendes decisions Cub Swanson
He had just as much trouble staying on his feet, as Mendes scored big with repeated takedowns, and controlling position once he was on top.
Mendes (8-0 MMA, 3-0 WEC) controlled all three rounds of the bout, never allowing Swanson to stay in striking distance while on his feet and by putting him on his back once he closed the distance, en route to a dominating unanimous decision victory.
Scott Jorgensen defeats Brad Pickett by unanimous decision
Brad Pickett used his top notch boxing to drop Jorgensen early, but anybody that has seen Jorgensen fight in the past, had to know that the fight was far from over.
After several big exchanges, Jorgensen eventually got the fight to the ground, nearly getting caught in a guillotine in the process, and after a scramble the two got back to brawling on their feet to close the first stanza.
The second and third rounds were much the same with both guys standing in the pocket and throwing, and it came down to the takedowns of Jorgensen that made the difference in the fight as it went to the judges scorecards. All three judges scored the bout 30-27 in favor of Jorgensen but the fight was much closer than that, and looked to be a front runner for fight of the night early on.
Bart Palaszewski finishes Zachary Micklewright
After a pretty even first round with both guys landing some big, clean shots, Palaszewski came out quickly in the second stanza, backing up Micklewright with a flurry of punches, then going to the body with a kick.
The kick stunned Micklewright, and as his hands came down to protect his body, Palaszewski landed a crushing right hand that dropped Micklewright to the canvas.
The referee stepped in and stopped the fight just as quickly as Micklewright hit the mat, ending the bout officially at 31 seconds of the second round.