On Sunday night, after only having one fight in four years, Dominick Cruz defeated T.J. Dillashaw by split decision to reclaim the UFC bantamweight championship in the main event of UFC Fight Night 81.
Before Cruz could even shower, a litany of contenders were lining themselves up for a shot at the new champ.
Dillashaw said in his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan that he felt he won and an immediate rematch should be next. Then there’s flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, whose head coach, Matt Hume, put on his Facebook page, “What is that smell…..? Smells like a Superfight……!!!!!” Finally, you have Urijah Faber, who the UFC brought to Boston for the fight. In an interview during the post-fight show, Faber told FOX Sports 1 he felt Cruz won the fight, wished him congrats, but thought it was time to settle their score and make the trilogy fight.
Going through those contenders, what should the UFC do for Cruz’s first title defense? Each of them have a valid case. But if you think about it, this should be a no-brainer. Whether you like it or not, the next title shot should go to Faber.
Looking at the 135-pound division, the most popular fighter is Faber. He sells tickets, generates clicks for websites (editor’s note: thanks!) and is something only a select few fighters are: a television needle mover. Faber has won three consecutive fights at bantamweight since his first-round loss to then-bantamweight champion Renan Barao at UFC 169 — a fight many felt, including Faber, was stopped too early.
Many feel Faber doesn’t deserve the opportunity and even Cruz felt that way at first.
“I don’t even want to talk about that guy; we’re still talking about him?” Cruz said on the FS1 post-fight show. “How many title shots has he had?”
Cruz feels differently on the matter now. He went on “The MMA Hour” and said he has no problem facing “The California Kid.”
As for Dillashaw, he won the fight, 49-46, on one judge’s card. The fight was that close to where it could have went Dillashaw’s way and no one would have complained about it.
But Dillashaw’s unwillingness to help sell the fight more and letting Cruz verbally abuse him in the buildup really hurts his marketability. Fans want to see fighters spew a little venom and defend themselves and not use the old adage of “I do my talking inside the cage.” Dillashaw’s coach, Duane Ludwig, told MMA Fighting if they do fight again, his fighter being “quiet and humble” won’t be the best course of action.
And then there’s the fact that this would be ANOTHER immediate UFC rematch. It seems like anytime there’s a close title fight or the champion loses, we see a call for an immediate rematch. Ronda Rousey called for one after her loss to Holly Holm. Also, people feel Carlos Condit should get shot after his close defeat to Robbie Lawler. Chris Weidman looks like he will get opportunity after getting stopped in the fourth round by Luke Rockhold at UFC 194. And after getting thoroughly dominated by Fabricio Werdum, Cain Velasquez is getting another crack at the belt at UFC 196.
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Lets have fighters who have been climbing the ranks get these opportunities and let the former champions have to earn their way to another crack at the strap.
Johnson makes an intriguing case for a superfight. He’s made eight consecutive defenses of the flyweight belt, he’s fought at 135 pounds before and had a competitive fight against Cruz in 2011. And who wouldn’t want to see a superfight between two of the top five pound-for-pound fighters in the world?
The only thing holding back a superfight is Johnson not being a pay-per-view or ticket seller, even though he’s quite arguably the best fighter in the world. The UFC isn’t going to stage a fight of this magnitude on free television. Plus, Johnson has one more test at flyweight in the form of Olympic gold medalist wrestler Henry Cejudo. That fight will take place sometime in 2016.
This all leads to Faber being the logical choice. The rivalry is there. Both fighters talk trash about each other anytime the other’s name is brought up. Each owns a victory over the other and a third fight would determine who is the better of the two. They were coaches on “TUF: Live” and were set to battle at UFC 149 but Cruz suffered a torn ACL. It is a fight five years in the making.
The UFC is about making the most money humanly possible. It isn’t always about what is fair. If it was, Stipe Miocic would be fighting Werdum at UFC 196, and Ryan Bader would be facing Daniel Cormier instead of Anthony Johnson next weekend at UFC on FOX 18.
Sorry, folks, this is how the fight business works. Deal with it or don’t watch.
Follow Steven Muehlhausen on Twitter: @SMuehlhausenMMA
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