Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight rivals Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber completed their trilogy last night (June 4, 2016) at UFC 199 inside The Forum in Inglewood, California.
Cruz's biggest opponent in recent years has been injuries, but things were looking up. In 2016 alone, he successfully retook the title and completed a pair of fight camps without major issue. Last night, Cruz was looking to tighten his hold on the belt.
Looking to push Cruz off the mountain was the only man to ever have beaten him. Faber may not have been on the biggest win streak of his career, but he was more motivated than ever to topple "The Dominator."
Before any strikes were thrown, Cruz landed a quick takedown. On the mat, the fighters traded transitions and swept each other a couple of times, but neither man could really maintain top position or do anything too effective.
For much of the first round, the two fighters traded takedown attempts and scrambled on the mat. Those exchanges were very competitive and close, but Cruz threw a bit more on the feet.
It was a very close round.
Cruz started the second round with a big left hand that dropped his opponent. However, Faber still had his senses, landing an upkick and scrambling back to his feet immediately.
Back on the feet, Cruz began to go to work with his low kicks. On the whole, Faber managed to recover but didn't throw all that much, allowing Cruz to control the tempo of the bout and thus win the round pretty clearly.
Cruz continued where he left off to start the second. While Cruz was landing with a decent amount of power punches, Faber had a difficult time finding his target and knowing when to punch.
On the whole, it was very much another Cruz round. He simply found his rhythm and played his game, landing more and better strikes throughout the round.
The fourth round was really more of the same. The pace may have slowed a bit, but Cruz simply kept playing his game and out-working Faber, who had serious trouble finding his opponent's range. At one point in the middle of the round, Cruz dropped his opponent for the second time, though Faber worked back up quickly again.
Faber was simply getting beaten to the punch.
Both men threw with an extra bit of aggression to start the round, and Faber managed to land a hard right hand. However, it wasn't enough to deter Cruz, who simply continued to rack up points.
There were a few ground exchanges in this round, as Cruz scored a couple takedowns. While Faber hunted for the guillotine a couple of times, he wasn't able to get on top or seriously threaten his opponent, only work back up to his feet.
This was a pretty classic Dominick Cruz. Across five rounds, he avoided the majority of his opponent's punches, landed the occasional takedown, and outworked his opponent with lots of punches and kicks.
It's hard to tell whether or not Cruz has gotten better, but he's certainly damn good. This was a pretty masterful performance, as Cruz played his game the entire bout and won almost every round. In addition, Cruz found the opportunity to mix more power strikes into his game, as he managed to drop his opponent a couple of times and really went after Faber in some situations.
Following this win, it's pretty clear that Dominick Cruz is still in prime form. In all likelihood, a match up with the winner of TJ Dillashaw vs Rafael Assuncao would make sense.
Additionally, as Faber mentioned, Cody Garbrandt is on his way up.
For Faber, this is a tough loss. It was rather reminiscent of the second loss, except that he wasn't able to find Cruz's chin as frequently. A veteran of 13 years, Faber may simply be closer to the end of his career than Cruz.
If Faber does continue fighting -- his words were unclear in the post-fight interview -- it's not clear where his path lies. Personally, I'd like to see him take some fights at Featherweight if he's interested in competing still, as it would be very tough to make another title run.
Therefore, fun, big name match ups are in his best interest.
Last night, Dominick Cruz put on a vintage performance to decision Urijah Faber. How long will Cruz hold onto his belt?
For complete UFC 199: "Rockhold vs Bisping" results and play-by-play, click HERE!