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Fight Night 81 Highlights/Results: Cruz Tops Dillashaw in Close Decision, Alvarez Outworks Pettis, + More

(via UFC on FOX)

“Ring rust does not exist.”

It was a mantra that Dominick Cruz had been repeating for years…literally, years. In the two years he had spent battling injuries since his last fight and the four years he spent doing the same before his *other* last fight, Cruz has kindly been reminding us that 1) Ring rust is a lie 2) He never really lost his belt and 3) The members of Team Alpha Male were a bunch of meathead jocks that couldn’t ‘andle his riddum’. But until last night, the former WEC and UFC bantamweight champion was all talk.

“You can’t hit what you can’t catch,” was another trademarked slogan that Cruz made sure to repeat ad nauseum in the trash talk-filled lead up to his bantamweight title fight with TJ Dillashaw at Fight Night 81, and without comparing him to the one true MMA psychic, Mystic Mac, it’s safe to say that “The Dominator” might have a magical crystal ball of his own.

In a thrilling, hyper-paced five round fight, Cruz made Dillashaw miss, miss, and miss again, utilizing his classical, ferocious footwork to stay two steps ahead of the champion while countering brilliantly throughout the fight. In total, Dillashaw landed just 109 of the 408 strikes he threw last night while absorbing 112 of Cruz’s 302 attempts. It was a razor-close fight if you were to go purely by the numbers, but “The Dominator” was clearly the better man when all was said and done, and the judges (or at least, two of them) seemed to agree.

To Dillashaw’s credit, he was able to land far more strikes on the returning Cruz than any fighter before him ever had, and arguably took both of the championship rounds, but it just wasn’t enough. The former champion may have risen up the ranks by emanating Cruz’s style, but he was simply left flat-footed and swinging at air when forced to deal with the real McCoy. We’re sure that a rematch will be on the horizon for these two, but for now, that loss is going to be a tough one for Dillashaw to eat.

In the co-main event of the evening, former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis faced off against former Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez and looked like a shell of his former self, to put it mildly. Utilizing the blueprint Rafael Dos Anjos used to dethrone Pettis, Alvarez opted to, for lack of a better term, “grapplefuck” Pettis into a state of tranquility over the course of three rounds. Even in the brief moments that the fight was being contested at range, Pettis just seemed unable or unwilling to let his hands go, resulting in an undoubtedly disappointing, yet dominant win for Alvarez (that was of course rendered a split decision).

While the judging on display at Fight Night 81 was its usual mix of indecisiveness and incompetence, the refereeing was, for the most part, on point. That was, of course, until the featured heavyweight bout between Matt Mitrione and Travis Browne. On two separate occasions, Browne’s fingers managed to find their way into Mitrione’s eyes without so much as a warning from referee Gary Forman, with the second instance not even resulting in a pause in the action until Mitrione complained that he was “seeing double.”

Of course, there was also the issue of the clearly separated shoulder that Mitrione suffered in the fight to no avail, but that’s for another day. As it stands, Browne picked up another big TKO win, and the only thing more gruesome than Mitrione’s eye¬†are his free agent prospects following the tough loss.

Check out the full results for Fight Night 81.

Main card
Dominick Cruz def. T.J. Dillashaw via split decision
Eddie Alvarez def. Anthony Pettis via split decision
Travis Browne def. Matt Mitrione via third-round TKO (4:01)
Francisco Trinaldo def. Ross Pearson via unanimous decision

Patrick Cote def. Ben Saunders via second-round TKO (1:14)
Ed Herman def. Tim Boetsch via second-round TKO (1:39)
Chris Wade def. Mehdi Baghdad via submission (RNC) (1st, 4:30)
Luke Sanders def. Maximo Blanco via submission (RNC) (1st, 3:38)
Paul Felder def. Daron Cruickshank via submission (RNC) (3rd, 3:56)
Ilir Latifi def. Sean O’Connell via first-round TKO (:30)
Charles Rosa def. Kyle Bochniak via unanimous decision
Rob Font def. Joey Gomez via second-round TKO (4:13)
Francimar Barroso def. Elvis Mutapcic via unanimous decision

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