Two of the best bantamweights on the planet entered the Octagon last night (July 2, 2011) with all the pressure in the world to put on an incredible fight to put the entire division on the map and set the stage for future opportunities.
Both Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber delivered. On a night full of incredible finishes, surprise upsets and the potential end of a legend, the bantamweights stole the show in the main event of UFC 132.
This bout was light years apart from the first time these two undersized warriors met four years ago, a featherweight contest where Faber would choke out Cruz in just over 90 seconds with his patented guillotine choke to retain his WEC title.
The roles were reversed this time around with Cruz now the UFC bantamweight champion while Faber was the hungry challenger.
We'll break it all down after the jump.
Cruz immediately went to work with his crazy footwork, juking, jiving and diving in with hooks, straight punches, kicks and knees. It's the type of style that has thwarted every opponent he's faced in the bantamweight division but Faber seemed prepared for it.
With Cruz's constant movement, he occasionally leaves his feet very close together and Faber would use these opportunities to dive straight forward and knock him off balance with power punches. Faber scored a knockdown early just this way and really worked hard for the takedown in the first round but couldn't put Cruz down.
"The California Kid" seemed to really be looking to counter Cruz on the exit, and he landed some of his most significant strikes this way but as the fight wore on, Cruz began to pull away with his constant pressure, continuous barrage of pitter-patter blows as well as mixing in some impressive takedowns for good measure.
Don't let the above paragraph fool you, this fight was extremely close and hotly contested throughout. Faber scored a legitimate knockdown in the fourth round but "The Dominator" bounced back to his feet like they were fighting on a trampoline and went right back to work.
Somehow, in the fifth round, Cruz actually turned up the heat and had his best performance as both men went for broke all the way until the final bell. The story of the fight was Cruz's speed, takedowns and elusiveness against Faber's power.
When the scores were tallied up, Cruz walked away with a unanimous decision victory by way of 48-47, 49-46 and an awful 50-45 scorecard from the judges.
For Urijah Faber, he's got to be devastated. He fought his heart out, gave Cruz a tougher fight than anyone has given him at bantamweight but it still wasn't enough. There were definitely openings for improvement though. There were times that Faber had Cruz cornered against the cage but he inexplicably would back off and let him escape. Cruz is so tough because of his movement but if he can't go anywhere, he could be a sitting duck. This was a huge blown opportunity for Faber.
The UFC likely won't make a rematch immediately as not many are protesting the decision, but expect one very soon. Expect Faber to get matched up with former bantamweight champion and still top draw Miguel Torres in his next fight. Both are coming off of high profile losses and this was a fight that had people salivating when "The California Kid" originally announced he was dropping down to 135 pounds. If he can win his next fight, expect another title fight very soon for Faber.
For Dominick Cruz, that was a gritty and workmanlike performance last night. He did what needed to be done against Faber and put on a show for the huge crowd in attendance in the first bantamweight main event in UFC history. There is a serious dearth of top contenders right now in the bantamweight division. Former champion Brian Bowles had a decent performance on the undercard but he also broke his hand again so he's sidelined for a while. The most obvious next contender is Demetrious Johnson, who's coming off of incredible back to back wins against "Kid" Yamamoto and Miguel Torres respectively, although he's also recovering from a broken leg.
As long as he wins his next title defense, a trilogy fight with Faber definitely looms on the horizon.
So Maniacs, what did you think of the main event last night? Did the bantamweights steal the show?