Published Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2010 | 3:22 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2010 | 8:49 p.m.
In a back-and-forth battle every bit as entertaining as the first time they fought, Dominick Cruz and Joseph Benavidez went the distance in their WEC bantamweight title fight Wednesday at The Pearl at The Palms.
When the dust had settled, it was Cruz who saw his hand raised once again.
Cruz (16-1) successfully defended his 135-pound belt for the first time Wednesday, defeating Benavidez by split decision in their WEC 50 main event fight.
Benavidez (12-2) proved to be a tougher challenge for Cruz than the first time they fought, countering effectively and winning the fight by one judge’s count 48-47.
Somewhat similar to their Aug. 9 fight in 2009, the difference for Cruz may have been his takedowns, as he was able to successfully wrestle Benavidez to the ground in huge momentum swings throughout the fight.
On the feet, the fight was as even as any — and possibly even favored Benavidez. In the fourth round, Cruz ate a big knee from Benavidez which opened a cut on the bridge of his nose.
“I just concentrated on doing what I do best — staying hard to hit,” said Cruz, who won by scores of 48-47 and 49-46 on the remaining two scorecards. “Obviously, it didn’t work out so well.
“That knee didn’t stun me but I felt the blood start pouring down my face. Benavidez was a great competitor. He was very honorable.”
In the co-main event, Anthony Pettis caught Las Vegas-based Shane Roller in a triangle choke in the final 10 seconds of their lightweight bout to possibly earn the next shot at the 155-pound title.
Dominick Cruz (16-1) vs. Joseph Benavidez (12-2)
Round One: Cruz bobbing in and out as he does, Benavidez throws out a hard overhand right that just misses. Benavidez looking to let Cruz come in and throw a counter. Cruz comes forward with a head kick and then lands a hard right hook that drops Benavidez to a knee. Cruz comes in hard again and they clinch against the fence. Cruz comes in looking for a combination but Benavidez lands a counter that pushes him back. More effective counters from Benavidez as Cruz comes in with a jab. Now Cruz connects on a hard right uppercut. Benavidez lands a hard straight left as Cruz comes in with a kick. Benavidez looks to land a body kick but Cruz shoots in and takes him down. Cruz lands minimal shots from top position and we’ll see a second round.
Round Two: Cruz comes in for a body kick but slips. Benavidez looks to capitalize but Cruz back to his feet quickly. Blood coming from a cut on what looks to be Benavidez’s forehead. Benavidez thinks about clinching and Cruz makes him eat a hard front kick. Benavidez looks for the takedown and Cruz sprawls. Benavidez pushes forward and surprises Cruz with a head kick at the end of the busted takedown attempt. Good movement by both guys gets the other to miss. Nice straight right lands for Cruz but Benavidez keeps coming forward. He looks for a single leg but Cruz shrugs him off. Benavidez throws out a front kick to back Cruz off but Cruz still catches him with a right hook. Cruz looks for a flying knee but misses. Cruz gets low for a takedown with 20 seconds left in round. Benavidez defends it and looks for a guillotine but can’t hold it.
Round Three: Benavidez avoids a kick and looks for a takedown early but Cruz shows good balance and remains on his feet. Leg kick lands for Benavidez. Cruz comes forward with a right hook but Benavidez catches him with a counter right. Both guys swing hard overhand rights and miss. Benavidez ties him up and wants the takedown bad but Cruz is too strong and wrestles him back upright. Cruz comes in again and they lock into a clinch against the fence. Benavidez goes low and tries to get the fight down but unable to do so. Cruz sticks in a jab but Benavidez weathers it and comes forward with a straight punch of his own. Nice leg kick by Benavidez nearly sweeps Cruz off his feet. Cruz looks to bob in again and Benavidez gets him in a Muay Thai clinch and lands a good knee to his ribs. Another hard body kick lands for Benavidez as Cruz shoots in but he gets taken down as he throws it. That ends the round.
Round Four: Cruz wastes no time looking for a takedown here in the fourth. He catches Benavidez off-guard and is quickly in side control. Benavidez puts him back in closed guard where Cruz looks to posture up and land some shots. Cruz trying to walk Benavidez to the fence and bury him in it. He does now, putting Benavidez’s head right along the cage. Cruz not doing much damage here but he’s smothering Benavidez pretty well. Now Benavidez able to reverse and put Cruz into a sitting position against the fence. Cruz works to his feet where they remain tied in the clinch. Benavidez throws a nice knee that lands and now Cruz bleeding badly from the nose. Cruz still in the clinch and now he wrestles Benavidez to the ground with a minute left. Cruz passes his guard and works into mount but Benavidez squirms under him and actually slips out the back just as the round ends.
Round Five: Cruz again goes for the immediate takedown to start the round but Benavidez defends it this time. Cruz bleeding badly from that cut on the bridge of his nose. Cruz checks a leg kick and Benavidez shoots in hard for a takedown. Cruz uses the fence to stay up and they break apart. Flying knee attempt from Cruz and Benavidez ducks under. Front kick lands for Benavidez just as Cruz looked ready to bob in. Benavidez tries to catch Cruz off-guard with a spinning backfist but Cruz gets his hands up. Benavidez slips a few punches and looks to land a big hook but can’t quite find his mark. They tie up briefly in a clinch and Benavidez lands a hook on the break. One minute left. Both guys swinging hard but can’t connect. Benavidez lands a hook but Cruz able to take him down as he follows through. Cruz on top and he looks to finish the fight with a flurry. Close round and fight comes to an end. Dominick Cruz wins via split decision.
Shane Roller (8-3) vs. Anthony Pettis (10-1)
Round One: Roller opens up with a left hook that Pettis looks to counter. Roller clinches almost immediately and looks to get the fight to the ground, Pettis keeps his balance and stays in the clinch. Roller able to throw him down but can’t stay on him and it’s back to the feet. Roller feints a punch and then shoots in for a takedown. Pettis backs up to the cage and it’s back to the clinch. Roller keeps going for a single leg off the break and Pettis makes him eat a straight right for it. Karate kid flying crane kick from Pettis tags Roller’s face, but he comes back with an overhand right and another takedown attempt. Pettis scrambles again and stays on his feet. Pettis comes forward with a series of hooks that knock Roller back. Roller ties him up in the clinch and looks to land a knee before the two break. Strong right hook lands now for roller as he lets his hands go. High head kick lands for Pettis and he chases Roller across the cage. Roller staggers and drops to his knees for a takedown. Pettis defends it again and turns Roller around so his back is to the fence. Round ends with a breakdance-like kick from Pettis.
Round Two: Roller throws a kick but Pettis times it right and comes forward with a straight right. Nice leg kick lands for Pettis. Roller tries to throw the overhand right again but it misses and Pettis ends up taking him down. Roller throws a few elbows from his back, Pettis trying to posture up and land shots. Good right hand lands for Pettis. Roller looks for a triangle choke that forces Pettis to pull back and it’s back to the feet. The big overhand right lands now for Roller and he follows it up with a hard front kick that has Pettis hurt. Pettis trying to recover and he ties up Roller in the clinch. Roller with a hip toss and he falls right into full mount. Pettis reverses the position though, flipping Roller over his back. Pettis now on top with 30 seconds left. Fifteen seconds left and Pettis lets Roller to his feet.
Round Three: Leg kick lands for Pettis to start the round. Nice jab lands for Roller. He shoots in hard, picks up Pettis and slams him hard to the mat. Pettis looks to work a submission from his back and Roller’s corner yells for him to stay out of it. Pettis pulls in Roller’s left arm and looks for the armbar but Roller able yank it free. Roller gets into half guard and now stands over him again. Pettis really looking for a submission from his back, now he’s able to work to his feet with two minutes left. Roller throws a big overhand right and Pettis ducks under it. Both guys look winded. Pettis lands a hard leg kick and follows it up with a straight punch. Roller wants to get it to the ground but Pettis stops his shot and turns it into a takedown of his own. Pettis too tired to keep him down and Roller gets back up with a minute left. Roller now actually puts his hands on his knees, he’s exhausted. Pettis looks for a takedown now but Roller catches him in a guillotine. Pettis breaks the hold and on his back. Roller looks to land a late punch but he left his arm out there. Pettis catches it and locks in the triangle and Roller has to tap. Pettis wins via submission at 4:51 of third round.
Cub Swanson (14-4) vs. Chad Mendes (8-0)
Round One: Both guys circling to the left and feeling each other out early. Mendes comes forward aggressively and lands an overhand left that seems to have gotten to Swanson. Swanson goes for a takedown but Mendes spins him around and ends up putting Swanson on his back. Mendes into side control and looking to get into mount but Swanson prevents it. Referee Josh Rosenthal stops the action now to stand it up as Mendes wasn’t staying active enough on top. Swanson comes in hard and fits in a straight right under the chin of Mendes. Swanson looks for a body kick but Mendes shoots in and takes him down. Swanson able to get back to his feet on his own this time with on minute to go. Swanson trying to steal the round late here but Mendes avoids taking damage and finishes the round with another takedown when Swanson throws a wild flying knee.
Round Two: Nice leg kick lands for Mendes early and then a quick takedown that puts Swanson on his back. Mendes doesn’t want to be in Swanson’s guard though and gets back to his feet. Jab lands for Swanson and he lets loose a high head kick that misses. Swanson on the offensive as he chases Mendes from one side of the cage to the other. Uppercut lands for Swanson. Another jab lands for Swanson. Mendes closes the distance, clinches up and trips Swanson to his back with 2:30 to go. Good elbow lands for Mendes out of Swanson’s closed guard. Swanson working hard to get up but Mendes stays on him and wrestles him back to the mat. Mendes not working in a ton of offense from top position but he’s controlling the fight. Swanson gets to his feet with seconds left in the round but get anything in before the horn.
Round Three: Swanson comes out with a hard straight right but Mendes blocks it and gets the takedown as Swanson looked to back off after the punch. Swanson uses the fence to get back to his feet with four minutes left. Jab lands for Swanson and he looks to turn it into more but Mendes ducks under and takes him down again. Swanson trying to work off his back now and trip Mendes’s right arm with his left leg. Mendes showing good submission defense though and now works into full mount. Swanson quickly puts him back into guard and now able to get to his feet but again only for second before Mendes plants him back on the mat with a slam. Swanson up quickly this time and there’s a minute left in the fight. Swanson swinging for the fences, Mendes looking to stall. Twenty-five seconds left and Mendes wraps his arms around Swanson for another takedown that should pretty much end the fight. Mendes wins via unanimous decision.
Scott Jorgensen (11-3) vs. Brad Pickett (20-5)
Round One: Pickett throws a straight right hand that catches Jorgensen in the middle of a kick and knocks him down. Jorgensen recovers, gets up and pushes Pickett’s back to the fence. They break off the clinch and Jorgensen fits a right uppercut in. Pickett clinches up again and looks to get the fight to the ground. Jorgensen won’t let it happen and throws him off. Jorgensen looks to fit in a few shots and he lands a number of unanswered jabs in. Jorgensen shoots for a takedown but Pickett scrambles and remains on his feet. Straight left lands for Jorgensen and it looks like it knocked Pickett’s mouthpiece around. Pickett trying to readjust it and Jorgensen chases after him. Pickett now recomposed and Jorgensen shoots in for a takedown. He leaves his neck out and Pickett looks for the guillotine. Jorgensen frees his head and ends up in side control. Still 1:30 to go in the round. Pickett able to get back to his feet and they move back to the center of the cage. Pickett looks to catch Jorgesen off-guard with a flying knee but Jorgensen appeared to block it for the most part. Pickett lands a nice right hook only to be answered by a Jorgensen knee. High pace first round comes to an end.
Round Two: Pickett looks to open up with an uppercut but Jorgensen avoids it and connects on a counter shot. Pickett keeps coming forward and lands a combination. Pickett looks to get a hand around Jorgensen’s neck to dirty box but Jorgensen keeps his hands going and forces him to retreat. Nice left hook lands for Pickett. Jorgensen lands a flurry but Pickett answers with a hard right hook. Another right hook lands for Pickett. Referee Kim Winslow stops action for a moment to give Pickett his mouthpiece which flew out from the Jorgensen flurry. Pickett goes for a takedown when action resumes but Jorgensen defends it. Pickett throws a knee from the clinch and it catches Jorgensen’s groin. Action stops again but only for a moment. Pickett lands a hard left hook but Jorgensen weathers it well. He comes back with a series of jabs. Both guys letting their hands go now and exchanging evenly. Pickett goes hard for a takedown but Jorgensen reverses it and uses his momentum to end up on top of Pickett near the center of the cage. Good elbow lands for Jorgensen out of Pickett’s closed guard. Pickett gets to his feet as round comes to an end.
Round Three: Left uppercut, left hook combination lands for Pickett. Now a straight right for Pickett but Jorgensen comes back and answers with a jab. Jab from Jorgensen sets up a right hook and then Jorgensen gets a single leg takedown. Jorgensen appears to be the fresher of the two here as Pickett puts him into closed guard. Picket gets his legs up from his back looking for a possible armbar, Jorgensen has to throw them off and Pickett uses the opportunity to get to his feet. Pickett badly swollen on the left side of his face and Jorgensen lands a right hook to the area. Another single leg takedown for Jorgensen and he’s back in Pickett’s guard. Jorgensen moves into side control when Pickett tries to get his legs high again. Big knees land for Jorgensen to Pickett’s midsection. Pickett tries to get to his feet but Jorgensen stays on his back and wrestles him to the ground. Pickett turns in and takes top position with 15 seconds left in the fight and that’s how it finishes. Jorgensen wins via unanimous decision
Bart Palaszewski (34-13) vs. Zack Micklewright (9-2)
Round One: Palaszewski opens with a nice inside leg kick on Micklewright, followed by another. Micklewright comes forward with a flurry that’s well defended by Palaszewski. Nice right hook lands for Micklewright. Micklewright gets the best of another exchange, stringing together a series of hooks. Palaszewski clinches and the two move up against the fence. Neither can get anything going and referee Steve Mazzagatti breaks up the clinch. Mikclewright fits in a nice jab and then connects on a straight right. Palaszewski answers with a little dirty boxing, landing two or three unanswered uppercuts. Micklewright lands an accidental low blow on a knee but Palaszewski seems alright. Now it’s Palaszewski who lands a low kick straight to Micklewright’s groin and action stops momentarily. Palaszewski showing his ability to counter now as he slips a few jabs and lands hard hooks to Micklewright. Body kick lands now for Palaszewski. Both fighters letting their hands go as the even round ends.
Round Two: Nice combination by Palaszewski hurts Mikclewright early. He follows it with a knee and a hard hook and Micklewright is down. Referee jumps in immediately and this one’s done. Palaszewski wins via TKO at :31 of second round.
Anthony Njokuani (13-4) vs. Maciej Jewtuszko (8-0)
Round One: Njokuani lands a shot early and Jewtuszko falls to his back almost immediately. Njokuani stands over him and lands one hard shot with his right hand. Jewtuszko still on his back and kicking his legs and Njokuani decides to let him up. Jewtuszko throws a nasty combination now, shooting out a jab and then landing a spinning backfist. Njokuani trying to recover but Jewtuszko swarms him and lands a hard uppercut that drops Njokuani to his knees. Jewtuszko pounces on him and quickly finishes the fight. Jewtuszko wins via TKO at 1:36 of first round.
Javier Vazquez (15-4) vs. Mackens Semerzier (7-2)
Round One: Vazquez comes out in a crouched stance, Semerzier more upright. Vazquez shoots in hard and slams Semerzier down hard to the mat, great takedown. Vazquez moves into side control almost immediately and starts landing some nice elbows. Semerzier gets him back into half-guard but Vazquez keeps working and now has full mount. Semerzier defending well from this tough position, avoiding major damage and he actually kicks off Vazquez now for a moment. Vazquez quickly back on him though and lands more good elbows to finish a dominant round.
Round Two: Semerzier pins Vazquez against the fence early. Vazquez jumps up and sinks in a guillotine but Semerzier shakes him off. Vazquez again shoots in quickly for a takedown. Semerzier sprawls but as he turns away, Vazquez jumps immediately on his back. He locks in a standing rear-naked choke and Semerzier can’t get out of it. Vazquez wins via submission at 1:35 of second round.
Ricardo Lamas (9-1) vs. Dave Jansen (11-2)
Round One: Jansen lands an early leg kick and looks to follow it up with a big right hook that misses. Jansen feints a high punch and throws a hard inside kick. Lamas winces as if it was a low blow but then signals he’s OK. The two work into a clinch against the fence and both land hard knees to the other’s midsection. Lamas lands a hard left uppercut and then goes high with a head kick. Jansen shakes it off and pushes forward with a takedown attempt. Lamas defends it well and they break again. Hard jab lands for Lamas as Jansen was coming in. Jansen showing good resilience here though and again pushes forward and puts Lamas on his back.
Round Two: Jansen looks for the takedown early in the round. Lamas defends and now he shoots in on Jansen. Jansen stays on his feet but falls into a guillotine attempt from Lamas. Lamas can’t sink it though and the fighters move back to the center of the cage. Nice right land lands for Jansen. Jansen bullies forward again despite taking a few unanswered shots from Lamas. He gets Lamas to the ground but can’t keep him there long. Lamas now with a spinning back fist that Jansen sees coming and ducks under. Blood now coming from a cut near Jansen’s left eye. Jansen with a nice slam now, putting Lamas on the mat.
Round Three: Lamas lands the first shot of the round as he slips a punch from Jansen and connects on a left hook. Jansen swarms him though and takes Lamas down less than 30 seconds in. Lamas seated on his butt now with little action coming from either fighter. Jansen looks to take his back and he does with three minutes left in the fight. Jansen looking for the rear naked here and he gets his right arm under the chin of Lamas with two minutes still to go. Lamas turns into it though and reverses the position and now he’s got Jansen in a side choke. Jansen squirms out of it but he’s in a bad position here. He tries to get to his feet but Lamas throws in a tight guillotine choke now. Again Jansen breaks the choke but he’s bleeding badly and still in the fetal position towards the center of the cage. Lamas goes for a rear naked here but Jansen breaks it and winds up on top and he postures up and looks to finish the strong. Lamas wins via unanimous decision.
Bryan Caraway (14-5) vs. Fredson Paixao (10-3)
Round One: Caraway shoots off a couple jabs, Paixao throws a nasty leg kick that swings Caraway completely around. Paixao shoots for a takedown, defended easily by Caraway. Nice left hook lands for Caraway. Paixao works into a clinch and lands a hard knee to Caraway’s face before the break. Another takedown attempt by Paixao comes up empty. Paixao now falls on his back on a clinch and invites Caraway into his guard but he won’t follow. Back on the feet, nice right hook lands for Caraway and then a hard left. More effective striking from Caraway as he starts picking Paixao apart. Paixao tries to go low for another takedown but Caraway is sprawling and shoving him away easily.
Round Two: Paixao ducks under a jab and looks for a takedown to start the second round. Caraway backs up to the fence, stays on his feet and shrugs Paixao off. Hard leg kick lands for Paixao and another. Paixao shoots hard and now he’s able to get Caraway to the ground for the first time. Caraway creates some space by kicking up on Paixao’s chest though and jumps right to his feet. Two more hard leg kicks land for Paixao that’s been his best weapon so far. Caraway backs Paixao up against the fence and lands a combination with his hands but Paixao survives. Twenty seconds left and Caraway actually shoots and takes down Paixao. Paixao looks for a kimura but Caraway scrambles out of it to finish the round.
Round Three: Caraway stalking Paixao around the cage in this third round. Paixao looking to shoot but Caraway defending them easily. Paixao works into the clinch but Caraway breaks away. Another attempt at a clinch from Paixao and Caraway lands a left hook after shoving him off. Hard leg kick lands for Paixao. Caraway feints a knee and lands another left hook. Paixao comes forward with a combination of two straight punches that land. Caraway ducks under another punch from Paixao and takes him to the ground but quickly gets up out of his guard with 40 seconds left in the fight. Paixao trying to come aggressively forward and let his hands go now but Caraway does a nice job of keeping him at a distance and using his reach advantage to stick in a jab. Paixao wins via split decision.
Danny Castillo (9-3) vs. Dustin Poirier (7-1)
Round One: Castillo opens up with a nice leg kick. Castillo shoots for a takedown but nice sprawl by Poirier keeps the fight standing. Castillo continues forward and pushes Poirier’s back to the cage. Good knees land for Castillo from this position and he eventually pushes Poirier’s back to the mat with 2:30 to go. Poirier kicks Castillo off for a moment but Castillo stands over him and lands a hard left hand. Poirier looks for a kneebar submission but Castillo able to prevent him from locking it in and lands a few more hard shots before the round ends.
Round Two: Castillo looking for another early takedown here to start the round. Poirier manages to stay on his feet but Castillo lands a nice left hook as they break away from each other. Poirier’s back gets pushed to the fence again. He jumps up and tries to get his legs over Castillo’s shoulders but ends up on his back with Castillo back in closed guard. Poirier now looking to lock in a triangle choke. Castillo lifts him up and slams him back to the canvas looking to break it but Poirier still has the grip on. Castillo guarding against the choke with his left arm and trying to pull his head free and he does with 45 seconds left. Castillo ends up in side control where finishes the round.
Round Three: Hard superman punch lands for Castillo and he clinches up with Poirier and drives him to the fence. Castillo throws two hard knees from the clinch and then slams Poirier to the mat. Poirier walks his way back to his feet using the cage but Castillo slams him right back down. Poirier again looking to set up a triangle with two minutes to go in the fight. Castillo preventing it by keeping his left arm in and keeping pressure off his neck. He frees his head and ends up in side control identical to the previous round. Thirty seconds left and Castillo transitions to full mount and lands a few punches to finish the fight. Castillo wins via unanimous decision.