When World Extreme Cagefighting Bantamweight combatants Dominick Cruz and Joseph Benavidez met at WEC 42 a little over a year ago, the two put on the kind of show that warranted a rematch. If I could go with a theme, it would be, “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better…I can Do Anything Better Than You.” For every punch the 5’4″ Benavidez threw, Cruz answered. For every kick that Benavidez connected, Cruz responded and at a longer distance. Having a four-inch height advantage, which also includes a reach advantage, along with dominance in the takedown the department, helped Cruz earn a split decision over Benavidez back in August 2009.
Moving on to the present, the two met again August 18th, 2010. The implications were much greater! First, the match took place WEC’s 50th event, held at Las Vegas’ Palm Casino Resort. Most importantly, the WEC Bantamweight Championship, held by Cruz, was at stake.
Much like the first bout, there was a game of one-upmanship. Benavidez, despite his height and reach disadvantage, took the fight to Cruz. When close enough, the Team Alpha Male product landed some wicked punches on the bantamweight king. He even attempted to chip away at the taller Cruz with shin kicks. Cruz made such tasks difficult for Benavidez with his unorthodox footwork. Whenever Benavidez tried to rush him, Cruz would either create distance with jabs or lure him in just enough to exercise his takedown prowess. Package all that with initiating punches and kicks and you have a performance from Cruz that proved once again he could do anything better than Benavidez.
The fight took an interesting turn at the latter part of the fourth round. The two were in a clinch against the cage and Benavidez landed a jumping knee to the bridge of Cruz’s nose, which resulted in profuse bleeding and a flap of skin hanging from the cut. Given the amount of bloodshed, Cruz’s ability to conclude the final round was left to be desired. The way Cruz closed out the championship bout was a testament of what separates champions from challengers. Cruz met Benavidez at the center of the octagon with an extra pep to his step. He was participatory in whatever exchanges Benavidez initiated and he even closed out the match with a takedown, followed by parting ground-and-pound shots.
In the face of adversity, Dominick Cruz proved his status as Bantamweight champion is legit. Up next for the champion is newly appointed number one contender Scott Jorgensen. Should Cruz retain his championship in that pairing, he could go on to perhaps avenge the one loss on his record, courtesy of Urijah Faber, another Team Alpha Male fighter. Faber recently shed weight, returning to his true fight class.
While the WEC is the lighter weight entity of Dana White’s UFC franchise, its product is in no way indicative of the fighters’ statures. As mentioned earlier, the WEC has been in existence for 50 events and followers, experienced and new, agree it has yet to field a disappointing card.
By Antoine Hoffman