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UFC Fight Night 81 results recap: TJ Dillashaw vs Dominick Cruz fight review and analysis

Last night (Sun., Jan. 17, 2016), TJ Dillashaw and Dominick Cruz finally met inside the Octagon at UFC Fight Night 81 inside TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. In an extremely close fight, Cruz took the split decision win. Find out how below!

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight kings TJ Dillashaw and Dominick Cruz clashed last night (Jan. 17, 2016) at UFC Fight Night 81 inside TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.

Dillashaw has been utterly dominant since beginning his title reign, but he still needed to defeat Dominick Cruz to solidify his hold on the title. Additionally, Dillashaw was more than motivated by his opponent's constant stream of trash talk to put his foe away.

Undoubtedly the biggest fight of his career, there was so much riding on this bout for Cruz. Based solely on his performance in this bout, Cruz would either complete one of the biggest career comebacks ever or lose his first fight in many years.

He did just that.

To watch Dominick Cruz vs. T.J. Dillashaw full fight video highlights from last night click here.

Let me preface this recap by saying that there were dozen of exchanges in every round, so any play-by-play will be significantly lacking. Do yourself a favor and watch the fight to get a full feel for the fight.

With that in mind, I'll paint the first round in broad strokes. Dillashaw, as expected, came into the fight and looked to pressure his opponent, switching stances often and throwing long combinations. Meanwhile, Cruz kept his distance, looking to be evasive and score with punches, and time his takedowns.

While neither man was entirely able to pull off his game plan, Dillashaw did earn a slight edge by landing more of his power shot. Cruz landed some nice, hard counters of his own, but he was not able to do anything significant with his wrestling.

Either way, it was an incredibly close round.

The second was similar to the first. The big moments in this round for the champion came in the form of a stiff counter right hook and a slapping high kick, while Cruz did have a big pair of consecutive takedowns. However, much like in the first round, Cruz was unable to control top position.

While it was close, Cruz likely edged that round. However, it was very much still up in the air.

Both men seemed to slow a bit in the third, which makes sense considering the frenetic pace. However, the slower speed allowed Dillashaw to land some cleaner shots early, and he also did some good work with his low kicks. On the other hand, Cruz again managed to score a brief takedown, and his counter shots were landing nicely near the end of the round.

For the third time in a row, it was a very close round.

The fourth round was a solid round for the champion. He managed to destabilize his opponent with a hard low kick, which clearly hurt his opponent. Additionally, he scored his first takedown of the fight, though like his opponent, he couldn't maintain top position for long.

Considering how close the first 20 minutes of the fight were, the last five minutes were crucial.

Dillashaw started the final frame well, landing hard with a hard right hand and high kick. He continued to stalk his opponent and slammed home a few more low kicks, but Cruz did a nice job masking his injury. Cruz was forced to stand his ground and trade more often, which, to his credit, he did rather well.

After 25 extremely close minutes, two of the three judges awarded Cruz the decision victory.

Cruz fought like his 2011 self. He was incredibly difficult to hit and used that to his advantage, making his opponent miss and touching him with counters and takedown attempts.

In addition, Cruz did an excellent job of creating big moments. Even if his opponent was generally landing the harder shots, Cruz would regain momentum with a combination of wide hooks or a quick takedown. Those takedowns may not have resulted in anything at all, but they score points for "The Dominator."

Which, in a close bout like this, is crucial.

Following this victory, Cruz will likely complete his trilogy match with Urijah Faber, but a rematch with TJ Dillashaw is likely not far off either.

Assuming, of course, he can remain healthy.

Regardless of whether you believe Dillashaw won or lost, there are definitely some things "Killashaw" can look to improve in the eventual rematch. To me, the biggest issue with Dillashaw's attack was that he was constantly reaching for his high kicks. It's far easier to pull away the head and avoid a head kick, which Cruz did many times and allowed himself to circle freely.

If Dillashaw had instead dug into his opponent's legs or looked to slam the kick into the body, he likely would've found far more success in halting his opponent's movement and doing damage.

Additionally -- as Dillashaw pointed out in his post-fight interview -- he needed to follow up on his combinations more. When he missed on a big shot and Cruz circled away, that's when Dillashaw needed to do what he does best and string together lengthy combinations.

Regardless, Dillashaw will surely find himself in a rematch before long.

Last night, Dominick Cruz defeated TJ Dillashaw in a tight split decision. Can "The Dominator" remain healthy and

For complete UFC Fight Night 81: "Dillashaw vs Cruz" results and play-by-play, click HERE!

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