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Dominick Cruz defeats TJ Dillashaw at UFC Fight Night in Boston

Dominick Cruz celebrated early Monday after recapturing UFC’s bantamweight title.Dina Rudick/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Dominick Cruz, the former champion, his knees once too beaten and mangled to retain his title, came back Sunday night to capture the UFC bantamweight title with a split decision victory over TJ Dillashaw at TD Garden.

Limping in the late rounds due to an aggravated left foot injury, Cruz held on for the win, many in the Causeway Street crowd not liking the decision when it was announced, meeting the announcement with a chorus of boos.

One judge scored it in Dillashaw’s favor, 49-46, but the other two went Cruz’s way by margins of 48-47 and 49-46.

“I don’t want to talk about it, it’s stupid,’’ Cruz said in the ring when asked about the foot injury, noting it was an old problem that resurfaced. “It finally had enough.’’


“I thought I was the aggressor, scored the bigger shots,’’ said a disappointed Dillashaw. “I thought I won the last two rounds decisively.’’

Before he left he ring, the conquered champ said, “Props to Dominick Cruz.’’

Cruz, the previous champ, ultimately surrendered his title due to multiple injuries, including a string of knee woes. Prior to climbing in the octagon on Causeway Street to face Dillashaw, the 30-year-old Dominator had not fought since Sept. 27, 2014 — his lone bout dating back to October 2011.

Cruz held the title belt.Dina Rudick/Globe Staff

While Cruz worked to get his knees in working order, Dillashaw, now 29, plugged along and claimed the title — one that Cruz, in many ways, figured still belonged in his trophy case.

Dillashaw, who entered with a 12-2-0 record, was a former wrestler at Cal State-Fullerton. His last loss came Oct. 9, 2013, vs. Raphael Assuncao. Cruz, beaten down by the injuries, last lost on March 24, 2007, when Urijan Faber put him away in a mere 98 seconds, closing it off with a guillotine choke hold.


The crowd was in Cruz’s corner. “Let’s go Cruz!’’ came the chants from the Garden crowd.

Round 1 didn’t show much of a difference between the two. With 1:35 gone, Dillashaw attempt a big left kick, but he did not connect and ended up falling to the mat. Cruz was unable to cash in on the slip-and-fall chance.

“We are full-on martial artists,’’ Dillashaw said in the build-up to the match. In the second round, the two were more combative, but still, no one gained a clear advantage.

The best action came with about a minute to go in the second round, when Cruz twice tackled Dillashaw and planted him on the ground in a span of five seconds. But the wiry champ twice bounced right up, giving Cruz no chance of jumping on him or locking him up with a stranglehold. It was their version of whack-a-mole.

It became more spirited in the third round, especially for a 15-second stretch that began with 1:45 to go. For a third time, Cruz was able to tackle and land Dillashaw, right in the center of the ring. And for a few seconds, but only a few seconds, he gained control in the dominant position. The agile Dillashaw reversed out of it, gained the advantage, and then the two were back upright.

Dillashaw finally gained his first takedown in the fourth round, bringing Cruz down along the fence and keeping him pinned against it for nearly a full minute. Not a lot happened for those 60 seconds, but Dillashaw came out of it bloodied, a cut opened under his left eye.


The two were both clearly exhausted in the final five-minute round. Dillashaw landed a decent high kick with 50 seconds gone and Cruz, tired by trying, landed a flurry of inconsequential combination punches with 1:10 to go.

Both clearly spent, the combatants gave each other a hug when the final horn blew. Both were bloody around the face, but neither suffered serious damage, each left smiling in their exhaustion.

A dejected TJ Dillashaw stayed in his corner after losing the bout to Cruz.Dina Rudick/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at dupont@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeKPD.