Sunday, 5 June 2016

Dominick Cruz beats Urijah Faber via unanimous decision at UFC 199

LOS ANGELES -- A nine-year rivalry between Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faberis presumably over, after their third meeting inside the cage ended in Cruz's favor.

Cruz (22-1) defended the UFC bantamweight championship for the third time in his career on Saturday, when he defeated Faber (33-9) via unanimous decision. The 135-pound championship fight co-headlined UFC 199 at The Forum

The 30-year-old Cruz was dominant over the course of a five-round fight. He lit Faber up with a variety of strikes and dropped him in the second and fourth rounds. Judges awarded Cruz accordingly, with final scores of 50-45, 50-45 and 49-46 in his favor.

It was Cruz's third title defense overall but first since he won back the belt in a split decision against TJ Dillashaw in January. Prior to that win, Cruz had been limited to just one fight in four years due to injuries. The UFC was forced to strip him of the title in 2014 due to inactivity.

"He's tough," Cruz said of Faber. "I'm not surprised. He's been a champion before. With a champion comes toughness. Everybody in this octagon is tough, so I'm ready for five rounds every time.

"I'm just glad I'm here. It feels so good to be able to compete. I thought I lost that at one point."

The win improves Cruz's record to 2-1 in the trilogy against Faber. Their first meeting in 2007 resulted in a first-round submission win for Faber, and it remains the only loss of Cruz's pro career. Cruz evened the score with a unanimous decision win at UFC 132 in June 2011. The two were supposed to meet again in 2012, but Cruz's injuries delayed the fight.

Cruz was far more dominant in the third meeting than he was in the second, in which judges scored a five-round title fight against Faber 50-45, 49-46, 48-47. According to immediate cageside stats by Fightmetric, Cruz outlanded Faber in total strikes 94-54. He shut down virtually every Faber takedown attempt and caused swelling under Faber's left eye by the third.

"Props to Cruz on an amazing fight," said Faber, who embraced Cruz after the final bell. "He caught me in the second, and he's got a little power. He's a heavy hitter.

"The game plan was to keep pressure. The surprise was he caught me with good punches early on that kind of shook me up."

Cruz and Faber were natural rivals. It started in 2007, when Cruz signed over Faber's face on a WEC fight poster at an autograph session ahead of their first fight. They coached against one another on The Ultimate Fighter and were supposed to co-headline UFC 148 in 2012, a mega-event featuring Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen, before Cruz fell off the card. Cruz fights out of Alliance MMA in San Diego, while Faber comes out of Team Alpha Male in Sacramento.

The hardest punch of the fight came in the second round, when Cruz dropped Faber with a straight left directly to the face. Faber landed a right hand here and there, but Cruz did well to avoid The California Kid's best punch and completely outclassed him, using the jab, right hand, outside and inside leg kicks.

A former WEC champion, Faber stopped short of calling it a career at age 37, but he said he would need to evaluate things following the loss. He is 0-4 all time in UFC title fights. Before leaving the Octagon, he mentioned his teammate and surging bantamweight Cody Garbrandt as a possible foe for Cruz.

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