Dominick Cruz can’t gain ground on FIGHT!’s Bantamweight Rankings; he was no. 1 before his World Extreme Cagefighting title defense started and he was no. 1 after taking a split decision from challenger Joseph Benavidez. But according to Cruz, he’s moving up on one important list. “I rank among one of the best in the world [pound-for-pound], there’s not a doubt in mind,” he said post-fight.
Not yet 25-years-old, Cruz employed his trademark footwork to keep distance, cut angles and bolster offensive and defensive wrestling to defend his belt last night against Team Alpha Male’s Benavidez. The San Diego-based fighter has now won six consecutive WEC bouts at 135-pounds, seven fights in a row overall. His last three bouts were clear victories over top-5 competitors (Brian Bowles, Benavidez twice). Now 16-1, his lone defeat remains at a higher weight against then-no. 1 featherweight Urijah Faber.
Benavidez was an improved version of the fighter who dropped a unanimous decision to Cruz 374 days ago; however, Cruz was simply the better man over the 25-minute contest. In-fight adjustments mean everything, and Benavidez’s inability to anticipate and defend Cruz’s round stealing takedowns at the end of each frame cost him the belt. Benavidez’s stiff strikes proved the champion can take a hit if his opponent can find him. Cruz moves light on his feet, laterally like a boxer in mixed martial arts when no one else has figured out how to do that due to threats of knees, kicks and takedowns.
If audiences and observers didn’t hold “The Dominator” in the same regard as WEC Featherweight Champion and UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva WEC 50, they should now. Cruz has (at least temporarily) solved the riddle of striking with a wrestler, and can outwrestle guys when he needs to. Scott Jorgensen will likely get the next crack at keeping the merry-go-round going at 135, giving Cruz a chance to prove if he is truly a dominant champion or if he just had a couple guys figured out.
Lightweight Spotlight on “Showtime”
Anthony “Showtime” Pettis lived up to his nickname against three-time All-American Shane Roller with a dramatic triangle choke finish ten seconds shy of the final bell. Up on the scorecards, the Duke Roufus protégé continued to go for broke with strikes and submissions, damaging and exhausting Roller to a breaking point, opening the door to the late submission. The 23-year-old’s fluidity and creativity in offense and escapes was the deciding factor as Roller’s no-non-sense, hard-nosed wrestling approach was undercut by speed and experience far beyond Pettis’ pedigree.
“I’m ready for the champ. Where’s he at?” Pettis said of WEC 155-pound titleholder Benson Henderson. “Ben, where you at? I’m ready for you, man.”
He continued, “WEC needs a new face. It’s me baby.” Let him prove it in the most compelling bout in the WEC’s 155-pound class—a dynamic clash between two of the sport’s youngest and brightest.
For Roller, a tussle with Kamal Shalorus would be a solid addition to any card.
“Young Guns” Jorgensen Hits the Mark
Scott Jorgensen picked up his fifth straight win and an extra $10,00 for a Fight of the Night performance against tough, well-rounded Brad Pickett of American Top Team. The Brit delivered the best performance of his career, gaining the edge in heated stand-up action and holding his own grappling, eventually falling victim to Jorgensen’s wrestling and ability to press forward. Boise, ID-based Jorgensen asked for a chance at the 135-crown post-fight and its likely that time.
Bart Palaszewski entered the WEC with hype resulting from memorable International Fight League contests only to fall flat in his first two performances, posting an 0-2 record. He’s won four consecutive since with three in the WEC after a devastating knockout over Zack Micklewright. A step up in competition is in order for the Polish fighter and the winner of the final installment of Donald Cerrone-Jamie Varner’s September bout places him in an intriguing title eliminator.