UFC Fight Night 81: Sooo … About Last Night

January 18, 2016

Last night the UFC held a show in Boston headlined by a bantamweight title fight between UFC Bantamweight Champion T.J. Dillashaw and former champ Dominick Cruz. It was Cruz’s chance to recapture gold after being forced to drop the title due to a string of injuries that kept him sidelined for years. In his absence, Dillashaw became the king of the division, utilizing footwork and volume to outwork opponents. Cruz showed the world that despite only fighting once in five years, he’s still the top dog in the division.

The co-main event featured a former champion looking to get back in the win column as Anthony Pettis faced Eddie Alvarez in lightweight action. It was a solid fight, with Alvarez getting his hand raised after three rounds of action. It wasn’t a devastating loss, but fans are now left wondering what is next for “Showtime.”

Honestly, though, you’re gonna read all about it below so let’s cut this intro right now and just talk about last night …

The Return of the King.

Dominick Cruz UFN81 Post 1If there is one fighter who fans could have understandably counted out, it would be Dominick Cruz. No offense intended to the “Dominator,” but it’s very hard to have faith in a fighter who spent most of his UFC career sitting on the sidelines due to injury. Especially the kind of serious knee injuries that Cruz was dealing with on a yearly basis. One fight in nearly five years, that was the kind of pace that Cruz was keeping as an “active” fighter on the UFC roster. Think about that for a moment.

So when Cruz was matched up with T.J. Dillashaw for a shot at the UFC’s bantamweight title, it’s understandable to think Dillashaw would roll through the former champ. That’s not exactly what happened. Cruz was able to use his footwork to slip most of Dillashaw’s attacks, while landing strikes of his own. When the judges’ scorecards were read, it was Cruz who left the Octagon with championship gold. The king has returned.

Whatever happened to Showtime?

Anthony PettisMan … watching the fall of Anthony Pettis has been such a bummer. It’s not that he’s been looking horrible in in his two straight losses. In a vacuum, last night’s loss to Eddie Alvarez wasn’t a poor performance. He looked alright, all things considered. But combined with the devastating loss to Rafael dos Anjos and the litany of injuries Pettis has dealt with over the course of his career, you’ve got to wonder if the best days of Anthony Pettis’ career are behind him.

If that’s the case, he’ll be one of the greatest “what ifs” in MMA history. A fighter whose career was derailed due to injuries and never reached his full potential.

Additional Thoughts!

– Really gotta wonder how different the fight between Matt Mitrione and Travis Browne would have played out had Browne not poked “Meathead” in the eye twice. The first may have been accidental, but the second one most definitely looked intentional. Browne did what he had to do to win but that ending was really disappointing to me.

– Mitrione’s eye was real gross. Like super gross. Like gross to the point that it was labeled “NSFW” when folks were posting screen shots last night. For a guy whose entire professional MMA career was fought inside of the Octagon and who possibly fought his last fight for the UFC, it wasn’t the best way to go out. But that’s the fight business, I guess.

– Shame on the referee for Mitrione and Browne, by the way. The fact he was pushing Mitrione to not take five minutes and missed multiple eye pokes shows incompetency. Fighter safety should be a referee’s top priority, not getting them back into the fight before they’ve recovered from a foul.

– Eddie Alvarez called for a title shot after beating Anthony Pettis, which I don’t think is going to happen. Alvarez only has two wins in the UFC and probably needs another two before he’s considered the No. 1 contender.

Patrick Côté has been fighting for the UFC since UFC 50. That’s crazy. He’s one of the last of a dying breed and has shown continued development as a fighter. At just 35 years old, he still has a few more years before he needs to consider retirement. His win over Ben Saunders was impressive and I look forward to the next fight.

Ed Herman really shouldn’t rock cornrows. But awful hairdos aside, his light heavyweight debut was impressive. He’s never going to be a title contender, but he could add some much needed blood into the UFC’s light heavyweight division that has felt stagnant for some time.

– Maximo Blanco should have been one of the safest bets on paper. He’s got the wrestling and striking to be a nightmare for anyone in the UFC’s featherweight division. He just can’t put it all together and leaves himself open by not utilizing proper defense.

– It may be time to give Ilir Latifi a step up in competition. He’s got cinder blocks for hands and last night’s win was about as violent as they come. Would love to see him face Nikita Krylov in the future.

Follow Matt Roth on Twitter: @MattRoth512

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