August 19, 2010
He may get mocked on for being "The Decisionator" but no one can deny the fact that Dominick Cruz is a tough riddle to solve. Joe Benavidez got a second chance, this time with the WEC's bantamweight title on the line, and just fell short of avenging his loss from their first meeting. He crushed Cruz's nose and opened a cut over his left eye but the champion was able to take a split decision, 49-46, 48-47 and 47-48, to retain his belt in the main event at WEC 50 in Las Vegas.
"Joseph Benavidez is a great competitor," Cruz told the WEC's Craig Hummer. "He didn’t fall into the trash talk. He was a very honorable fighter."
Cruz, who won his seventh straight fight (five by decision), was booed by many of the fans in attendance. When asked where he stands in the world rankings, the 25-year-old was undaunted and said he absolutely belongs near the top.
"I rank amongst the best in the world," said Cruz (15-1, 6-1 WEC). "There’s not a doubt in my mind."
The kid's got a chip on his shoulder and it works to motivate him. Scott Jorgensen, who beat Brad Pickett earlier in the night, is likely to get the next bantamweight title shot against Cruz.
Adalaide Byrd was the judge who scored the fight four rounds to one for Cruz. Lester Griffin gave the first three rounds to Cruz while Doc Hamilton gave Cruz the final three to Benavidez. Cagewriter had it 3-2 for Benavidez.
From the start of the fight, Cruz employed his trademark dancing and darting style. Benavidez seemed to have it solved in the first two rounds by using a southpaw stance. He landed some solid kicks on Cruz's lead leg and also used a counter right hook when Cruz attempted kicks. That said, the judges all liked what Cruz did early.
"I just concentrated on staying hard to hit," said Cruz. "I don't look too bad, I suppose"
In the middle of the fourth, while in the clinch, Cruz actually suffered a broken nose on a big Benavidez knee. It opened up a cut on the bridge of his nose which spurted blood for the next two minutes.
Update: Cruz's trainer Eric Del Fierro said Cruz did NOT suffer a broken nose.
Update II: FightMetric backed up the two judges who chose Cruz. The service says Cruz outlanded Benavidez 103-58 and also won the takedown battle 5-0.
Update III: A reminder that fight stats are tabulated by humans and can also be subjective, Compustrike numbers back up the fact that this was a very close fight. Total Strikes: Cruz 86-of-233, Benavidez 69-of-235. Interesting to note, Benavidez landed just 4-of-5 strikes in the fourth and was taken down twice, but won the round on 2-of-3 cards.
Things slowed down in the fifth round. Both fighters went for broke but missed on most of their strikes. Benavidez (12-2, 4-2 WEC) landed enough shots to take the round.
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