Photo Credit || Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC
Boston, Massachusetts: Dominick Cruz was favored on the judges scorecard and fought an excellent battle against T.J. Dillashaw to earn a split decision victory and become the new 135lb. champion.
UFC Fight Night 81 was held on January 17, 2016 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. T.J. Dillashaw vs. Dominick Cruz was the featured main event of the card.
Round 1: Dillashaw opens aggressively, throwing a high kick and getting in the face of the challenger. Cruz shoots for a takedown but it is denied. Dillashaw throws another high kick and Cruz returns with a combination. Cruz pushes forward but Dillashaw is having none of it and circles away. Dillashaw misses a high kick and slips, with Cruz briefly getting the back of the champion. Nothing comes from the grappling and both men bounce back to their feet. With three minutes to go, Dillawshaw shoots for a failed double-leg and follows up with a looping left hand. Cruz is using smart footwork to stay on the outside and cracks T.J. with a counter left. Dillashaw presses forward anyways and misses another high kick, left hand. Landing a pair of body kicks, Dillashaw forces Cruz to respond with a left-right, low kick combination. Dillashaw lands another body kick as Cruz circles to the left. Thirty seconds to go and Cruz misses another takedown attempt. Dillashaw tries to return the favor with a clinch takedown against the cage, but the round comes to a close.
Round 2: Cruz opens with a high front kick and circles away immediately afterwards. Dillashaw pushes forward regardless, hunting for a big combination. Cruz manages not to get tagged, and counters with a good right hand to the body. Dillashaw slips on a right head kick but gets back to his feet before Cruz can take advantage. Stuffing another takedown, Cruz is defending efficiently and returning counters to keep the champion honest. Dillashaw lands a snapping leg kick and quickly backs away, with Cruz looking for another right hand counter. T.J. lands a left straight right, high kick combination; Cruz fires back with a pair of jabs. With just over a minute remaining, Cruz lands a couple of takedowns but cannot keep the champion on the ground. Dillashaw throws a few tentative high kicks and a missed right hook as the second frame ends.
Round 3: Cruz pops Dillashaw with a jab and backs away. The champion jumps forward and misses with a boxing combination against the cage. Cruz circles out and throws some low kicks to keep a distance. Dillashaw is clearly trying to bully the challenger against the cage with striking combinations, but is missing for the most part. Cruz gets tagged with an uppercut half way through the round, but stays on his bike and evades the majority of the followup attacks. Cruz shoots in for a double and it lands; trying to control the scramble is a different story however and he ends up being reversed. Dillashaw gets back to his feet and takes a deep breath. A good left straight lands for the champion and Cruz has to briefly jump back. With thirty seconds to go, Cruz lands a good combination against the fence but Dillashaw continues to push forward. Just as the bell rings, Cruz counters once again and Dillashaw is briefly stumbled.
Round 4: Dillashaw is looking frustrated as the fight moves into the championship rounds, trying to land heavy shots but not finding his target. Dillashaw lands a left hook with a very strong right leg kick, forcing Cruz to shoot for another takedown. Although it lands, Dillashaw gets back to his feet shortly after and Cruz eats a right hook on the reset. Cruz lands a strong jab, but Dillashaw doesn’t budge and fires back with a left-right combination. With two minutes left in the fourth, Dillashaw hits a takedown and switches to back control. Cruz is back to his feet, and grabs the fence twice to try and get out of the grappling position. Dillashaw is throwing knees to the leg and holding a cage-clinch until the challenger circles out with just under a minute remaining. Dillashaw’s right eye is showing damage at this point, but he is still moving forward and pressuring Cruz. A very solid round for the champion.
Round 5: Throwing a pair of right leg kicks, Dillashaw is looking to take advantage of the damage done in the prior round. Cruz is throwing counter shots but is not landing many, and the champion lands a left straight. A high kick lands for the champion which stuns Cruz, forcing him to back-peddle and retreat. Dillashaw is starting to land a higher percentage of his strikes, and Cruz is looking more desperate with his counters. Dillashaw lands another right leg kick, causing more damage to the leg of his opponent. Dillashaw is still trying to bully Cruz against the cage, but the challenger lands some good counter combinations despite his obvious leg injury. With only a minute left in the fight, Cruz is looking for some heavy shots on the counter as Dillashaw continues to pressure forward. Before the official results are announced, the camera pans to Cruz who is clearly limping on his right leg.
Official Result: Dominick Cruz def. T.J. Dillashaw via split decision (48-47, 46-49, 49-46)
As the new UFC bantamweight champion, Dominick Cruz advances to 21-1 as Dillashaw drops down to 12-3.