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Dominick Cruz vs. TJ Dillashaw: Round by Round Breakdown

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The main event of the evening for UFC Fight Night 81 in Boston was arguably the biggest fight in UFC Bantamweight history as former champion Dominick Cruz looked to regain the title that he never officially lost in a face off against current champion TJ Dillashaw. Regarded as 2 of the best pound for pound fighters in the world, this fight was one that UFC fans had been looking forward to for years. Would Cruz complete his incredible comeback story by regaining his title? Or would Dillashaw prove that there is truly a new king in the 135 lb weight class?

Round 1

Both fighters come out quick and are showing a lot of movement. Cruz immediately throws a high kick that misses. They circle and Dillashaw connects with a kick to the body but Cruz grabs the leg and uses it to take Dillashaw down. They’re back to the feet almost immediately and Cruz lands a leg kick. They circle some more and then exchange strikes but nothing really seems to connect. Dillashaw lands an inside leg kick but Cruz responds with two quick right hands. Both fighters moving really well and they exchange again but nothing connects as both fighters dodge effectively. Cruz lands a right hand to the body. Dillashaw throws a head kick but slips and falls and Cruz immediately jumps on him. Dillashaw scrambles back to the feet and attempts a takedown of his own but Cruz stuffs it. Both fighters return to circling each other, looking for an opening. They again exchange strikes but nothing seems to connect. A left hand connects by Cruz is followed by a rich and then a leg kick. Dillashaw responds with a right hand and a body kick. Dillashaw blocks a head kick from Cruz and lands a body kick of his own. He lands another body kick and then stuffs a takedown attempt by Cruz, they exchange punches as they separate. Cruz stuffs a takedown attempt by Dillashaw and they’re back to circling as the round ends.

Round 2

Both fighters come out swinging to start the round but nothing connects. Dillashaw is applying pressure and landing leg kicks but Cruz responds with several jabs and then a right hand. Cruz is moving and dodging very well, Dillashaw is having a hard time landing anything solid. Cruz lands two quick right hands to the body and then starts throwing jabs. Dillashaw slips and falls after another head kick attempt, eats a jab by Cruz as he stands up. Cruz stuffs a takedown attempt by Dillashaw and slips away from several strikes before he gets caught by a left high kick followed by a right hand. Dillashaw connects with some solid leg kicks on the lead leg of Cruz. Cruz lands a left hand but eats a right high kick and a left hand by Dillashaw. Cruz gets a takedown, Dillashaw is immediately back to his feet only to be taken down again by Cruz. Dillashaw scrambles back to his feet and throws a flurry of strikes but doesn’t connect with any of them. He manages to land a left hand but takes a leg kick from Cruz at the end of the round.

Round 3

The round starts and Dillashaw is the aggressor. Both fighters exchange but don’t really connect with anything. Dillashaw lands a big leg kick on Cruz but Cruz counters with a 1-2 punch combination. Dillashaw connects with a right hand and follows it up with a body kick. Cruz lands several jabs and barely avoids a head kick from Dillashaw. Dillashaw lands a left jab but eats a right hook from Cruz on his way out. Dillashaw lands a right hand, body kick, uppercut combination that looked like all three strikes connected solidly. Dillashaw does appear to be telegraphing his shots however which is causing him to miss quite a bit. Dillashaw lands two solid leg kicks but gets taken down by Cruz again. They scramble back to the feet and exchange jabs. Dillashaw lands a high kick and Cruz responds with a body kick followed by a three-punch combination. Dillashaw shoots for the takedown but Cruz stuffs it and lands a right hand as they separate. Both fighters start to circle at the end of the round.

Round 4

Cruz lands a right hook right out of the gate in round four. Dillashaw responds by connecting with a body kick, a leg kick and then a right hand of his own. Cruz lands a combination but nothing really solid. Both fighters begin to circle and throw lots of feints at the other. Dillashaw lands another leg kick and it seems to be affecting Cruz now. Cruz gets a takedown but they’re back to the feet almost immediately and Dillashaw lands a good combination that ends with a body kick. Dillashaw connects with a solid right hand and Cruz responds with a combination, a jab and then a 1-2 punch combination only to be taken down by Dillashaw. Dillashaw takes his back as they scramble to the feet against the cage. Dillashaw lands several knees to the same leg he’s been targeting with leg kicks. Cruz throws several small, quick hammer fist strikes and they separate. Dillashaw slips and falls while going for a high kick again. Cruz tries to take advantage with another takedown attempt but gets stuffed and eats a right hand from Dillashaw. Cruz responds with a right hand of his own just before the buzzer sounds to end the round.

Round 5

The round begins and Dillashaw comes out swinging. He lands a leg kick and a body kick. Dillashaw follows that up with a big right hand and a big head kick as well. Cruz throws a combination and eats a leg kick from Dillashaw and Cruz has started to noticeably favor the lead leg. Cruz lands a big left hand followed by a left jab. Dillashaw hits him with several body kicks but gets hit with a right hand from Cruz. Cruz throws a spinning back fist but Dillashaw blocks it, Dillashaw also blocks a head kick by Cruz before landing another leg kick, and another. The leg kicks appear to be adding up and Cruz isn’t moving quite the same way that he was earlier in the fight. Cruz throws a high kick and punch but Dillashaw blocks or evades them all. Dillashaw throws a head kick of his own, which Cruz blocks and the two exchange strikes. Cruz lands a left hand and a small combination before getting hit with another leg kick. They exchange punches and Dillashaw attempts a takedown but gets stuffed by Cruz. They exchange punches as the final round ends.

Result

Winner via Split Decision AND NEW UFC Bantamweight Champion: Dominick Cruz
48-47, 49-46, 46-49

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Fight Announcements

Jacare Souza vs. Kelvin Gastelum Official for UFC 224

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Brazils second UFC event of the new year added another middleweight contest. UFC officials announced, Kelvin Gastelum will face Jacare Souza in Rio de Janeiro at UFC 224.

The inevitable main card booking of Souza comes after headlining UFC on Fox 27. The Brazilian fighter is 3-2 in his last 5. His recent contests only look worrisome in comparison to the entirety of his long career. Prior to his past 5, Souza held an eight fight win streak. In that period of time, he defeated Gegard Mousasi, Derek Brunson (for the first time), and Chris Camozzi twice. Despite the drama words and numbers on screens create, his recent record is nothing to have concern over. A split decision loss to Yoel Romero in 2015, and a 2017 TKO loss to division champion, Robert Whittaker is manageable. Defeating Derek Brunson in the opening round of their main event bout kept him deep in the milky opaque froth that is the middleweight title picture. Clearly his position in that photo lies upon the upcoming match up.

Looking ahead for Jacare Souza, assuming he wins, becomes interesting, just as it devastating for Kelvin Gastelum. Gastelum is 3-1 since returning to middleweight, technically his record sits at 2-1 and 1 No Contest. He tested positive for marijuana in a sample collected the night of his bout against Vitor Belfort by USADA in March of 2017. Originally, the outcome of the bout read the way viewers remembered it; a 1st rd. TKO in favor of Gastelum. On May 7th, 2017, the win was officially overturned and changed to a No Contest. He also received a 90 day suspension, adjusted to the day of the failed test (March 11th).

In the aftermath of the failed test, his scheduled contest against Anderson Silva. He then split his next two contests, losing to Chris Weidman and defeating Michael Bisping emphatically, yet under odd circumstances. A win for Gastelum certainly muddies the waters of middleweight contenders, while adding to a good 185 lb. resume.

UFC 224 takes place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on May 12th, 2018 at the Jeunesse Arena. A battle betwen Brazilians is set for the date as Lyoto Machida takes on Vitor Belfort. Other featured bouts include; Aleksei Oleynik vs. Junior Albini*, Cezar Ferreira vs. Karl Roberson*, Alberto Mina vs. Ramazan Emeev, and Davi Ramos vs. Nick Hein*.

*Bouts reportedly set for UFC 224

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Exclusive: Mike Ekundayo, “He could come with anything, I don’t care”

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In a little less than a week, Rise of Champions crowns its inaugural bantamweight champion. The crowning of the first 135 lb. champion marks the young promotions first champion. It makes sense why the promotion owned and operated by UK MMA star, Brad Pickett, and Team Titan head coach, Mickey Papas plan to crown the promotions first champion in the bantamweight division. Pickett competed in the division throughout his tenure with the WEC, and ultimately the entity which absorbed the light weight promotion, the UFC. Even more-so, two young and rising prospects of the division. One undefeated in his professional and amateur career, the other riding a seven consecutive victories, five by submission. The two meet February 17th, Mike Ekundayo puts his career unbeaten streak up against Jonas Magard’s at ROC 5, for the aforementioned, inaugural bantamweight championship.

Speaking to the undefeated Ekundayo before his fight, he believes this opportunity to be inevitable. Born in Hackney, (a borough of London) early in life, Ekundayo was no stranger to cramming his belongings into large cardboard boxes. At the age of 7, he moved from Hackney to Herne Hill, a district located in South London. Two years later he found himself in similar situation, moving from his vaguely new home in Herne Hill to Brixton. A road trip in the car to his new home, took approximately 5 minutes.

It is admittedly, not an easy life. In a harrowing article describing the horrors of gang life in London by the metro.uk, former gang member turned community activist, made the claim, “When you are from Brixton, from Peckham, west London, anywhere in London, you are seeing hardship where a lot of communities can’t reach their full potential”.

In his own words, Ekundayo describes his home as, “not the best start to have in your life. It’s not the best upbringing”. But that couldn’t matter any less for him. Not only does the London resident consistently work to grow his potential, he gets to see it every day. His coaches Brad Pickett and Mickey Papas hold the knowledge as well as first-hand experience, increasing his limits with every session. “We’re all close”, speaking of his coaches and team. “My head coach is Mickey Papas, he’s very knowable in the game. He’s been around for a very long time. He teaches me a lot, I can learn a lot of stuff from Mickey Papas. Sometimes I just think, how does he know all of this? Where did he get this information from?”

He continued, “While I was coming up through amateur, Brad (Pickett) was still an active fighter, but nowadays he’s taken a coaching approach. So he’s coaching us prospects getting us to where he got to and further… He’s been through it all, gotten to the top, and stayed at the top”.

Further discussing his coach, “For UK MMA, you could definitely call Brad a legend. He’s done a lot in his career, and someone who I rate highly as an MMA fighter is Demetrious Johnson, and of course Brad has got a win over (him). I feel like just being surrounded by someone like Brad, you’re working towards the right things. When he passes information onto you, you respect it that bit more because of far he got in his career. He’s definitely given me the right guidance, I trust his guidance”.

When it comes to the upcoming title fight, confidence poured out from where praise and respect had once been. “I just think it’s my time, to be honest. I really do believe it’s my time for all of this. The work I put in, certain things become inevitable”, he said. “I actually called this after I won my third fight, I called for belts and big shows. I spoke it to existence”. He continued, “It’s my time to finally to get a strap of some sort. All the straps is what we’re going for, all of them. We’re going for every one”.

“Rise of Champions is my show… That’s how I feel when I’m performing on ROC, it’s just my show, it’s my time to shine. Everyone knows who there here to see, there not really there to see the other guys. It’s my time, it’s my show and I’m going to put on a show on February 17th and I’m going to win that belt”.

The infectious nature of his positive attitude was palpable. Although we only spoke through small rectangular devices, I could feel his energy in the room. His attitude shined brightest when talking about what it would mean to be the first ever ROC Bantamweight champion. Ekundayo claimed, “It just means a lot to have my first belt in anything to be honest… Within myself, I call myself a champion, every day. But now, other people would have to call me a champion because I’ve got a belt… And one thing I really want to do is, which sounds a bit weird, I just want to take the belt home to my area, to Brixton.”

“I just want to take it to my area, and just show the people of that area what hard work can achieve… I want to just take it to my people and show them that not for nothing, we are from Brixton, it’s not the best start to have in your life. It’s not the best upbringing but you can rise above it and you can achieve your goals and that’s what the belt will mean”.

When the conversation shifted to the topic of his opponent, Ekundayo had less encouraging words rolling off his tongue. Jonas Magard, the second half of the ROC 5 main event, holds a record of 7-4. Currently he owns a seven fight win streak after starting his career 1-3. Ekundayo thought, “He did fight quite decent guys in his three loses… but in the seven fight win streak, none of his opponents have been of caliber”.

He elaborated further, “What’s in my thoughts is more me, then it is of him. So, he could come with anything, I don’t care. I’m just focused on how I’m going to be picture perfect. How I’m going to paint a masterpiece, how I’m going to make it a beautifully perfect performance. That’s what my primary focus is on, so what he does to me is irrelevant, I’m just going to focus on how I’m going to be perfect on the night of February 17th”.

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Announcement

UFC 222 Re-Worked with Cris Cyborg vs. Yana Kunitskaya, and Frankie Edgar vs. Brian Ortega

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UFC 222 has been saved, and it didn’t take a superhero to lift the burning boulder which was Max Holloway’s injury and withdrawal. All it took was a female named Cyborg and a man with a demeanor so smooth, he could be mistaken for an alter-ego. Cris Cyborg now serves as the UFC 222 main event when she defends her featherweight belt against Yana Kunitskaya. Frankie Edgar bumped down to the co-main event to face Brian Ortega in what is likely a title eliminator. The news of the UFC 222 revival originally stemmed from a report by MMAFighting.com and confirmed later in the evening by the UFC.

Over the course of the week, reports surrounded the Las Vegas card and whether it would survive. Multiple options were reportedly being mulled over; cancelling the card outright, changing the pay-per-view (PPV) to a ‘Fight Night’ with an Edgar vs. Ortega main event, Dillashaw vs. Garbrandt 2 main event, among others. Ultimately, the promotion landed on Cyborg vs. Kunitskaya as the new main event, while also booking Brian Ortega.

This adjustment of the card places their women’s Featherweight champion in the second PPV main event in three months. Cris Cyborg recently put her undisputed Featherweight title on the line against Holly Holm at the year ending card, UFC 219. She successfully defended her belt by unanimous decision, in what was an amazing technical display from the Brazilian. In her octagon career, Cyborg is undefeated in her four appearances with three KO/TKO stoppages.

The second half of the new main event, Yana Kunitskaya, makes her UFC debut against the scariest women on the roster. If the 145 lb. champion was not enough of a challenge, Kunitskaya also makes her first appearance in the division since defeating Cindy Dandois in December of 2010. Of Russia descent, her most recent performances came inside the Invicta FC cage. At the female-only promotion, she posted a record of 1-1, with 1 No Contest. Her loss and no contest, both came at the hands of former UFC Featherweight title challenger, Tonya Evinger.

Turning to the co-main event, both fighters have been relatively inactive but, for good reason. Brian Ortega amazingly forced perennial men’s Featherweight contender, Cub Swanson, to tap in the second round of their ‘Fight Night: Fresno’ contest. Ortega fought twice in 2017, but more-so stayed inactive following his stoppage victory over Swanson. The Californian contender announced his desire to wait in line for the next title shot following the recent victory.

For Frankie Edgar, his last fight took place at UFC 211 when he absolutely demolished young and rising star, Yair Rodriguez. A card which took place last May. While Ortega holds an undefeated record, Edgar is undefeated in his previous 9 fights, excluding people named Jose Aldo.

UFC 222 takes place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 3rd.

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