Sunday, July 3, 2011 | 12:30 a.m.
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They said all the right things.
After Dominick Cruz defeated Urijah Faber in the UFC 132 main event via unanimous decision (50-45, 49-46, 48-47) to keep his bantamweight belt, both fighters claimed their feud had come to an end. They’re no longer going to look at each other as enemies.
“I have nothing but respect for the guy,” Cruz said. “I’m good. The guy has done so much for the lighter weight classes, you can’t deny that.”
Words are nice, but sometimes actions are more telling. From the moment the referee asked Cruz (18-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) and Faber (25-5 MMA, 1-1 UFC) to touch gloves before their fight, it was obvious their dislike for each other was genuine.
The fighters ignored the official’s command without flinching and retreated to their corners. They continued to clash after the fight, albeit in a subtler manner.
Each had a needle or two for the other in the post-fight press conference. Cruz couldn’t resist when asked if he injured his hand in the fight.
“I threw a lot of punches,” Cruz said. “I hit Urijah in the face a little bit, so it hurt.”
Faber rolled his eyes and pointed to his face, which wasn’t nearly as bruised or swollen as Cruz’s.
“I know I landed some heavy shots and rocked him a couple times, but apparently that wasn’t enough,” Faber said. “I’ll have to see exactly what happened. I feel like he was using kicks a lot, but I was blocking them. Even the high kicks, not one connected.”
Faber wasn’t convinced he lost the bout. After the fifth round concluded, Faber thought he had a good chance to win the decision and even raised his hands in celebration.
He congratulated Cruz afterward, but wouldn’t concede defeat. He said it was merely the judges’ interpretation and he needed to watch tape to see how and if he lost.
“The main factor must have been the amount of punches,” Faber said. “That’s the only thing I can think of. We both fought a great fight.”
No one would argue that. If one lesson came out of the card at MGM Grand Garden Arena it was, in Cruz’s words, “just because we’re little guys doesn’t mean we can’t scrap.”
The UFC’s first main event pitting fighters in a weight class below 155 pounds was a rousing success and one of the best fights of the year. Cruz ultimately eked out the decision because of the way he kept Faber off guard with quickness and sneaking in to land pestering shots.
But the momentum shifted frequently. Faber probably landed the most powerful punches of the bout with right hands late in the first round and early in the fourth.
“I wouldn’t want to score that fight,” UFC President Dana White said. “It was a very good fight, back and forth, and we’ll see what happens. Third fights are always fun, especially if they are as good as that one was.”
White brings up the most important reason not to think Cruz and Faber will now live happily ever after — the two will likely fight again in the future.
Cruz evened the score Saturday night after he lost to Faber via first round submission in 2007. A rivalry like this rarely ends tied at one in the fight game.
“Let’s do it,” Faber said. “I’m ready.”
It won’t happen right away. When prompted by White, UFC matchmaker Joe Silva said in the press conference that either Brian Bowles — who defeated Takeya Mizugaki by unanimous decision on Saturday’s undercard — or Demetrious Johnson would have the next chance to dethrone Cruz in the 135-pound division.
Speculatively, Faber could take on the other in a No. 1 contender bout. Because of his performance and reputation, it’s unlikely Faber is more than two victories away from another title shot.
“They do this to me every press conference,” White joked to Silva. “They want me to make the whole next card.”
Even White understood, however, because of the excitement level after Cruz vs. Faber. Their hostility in the build-up to the fight only added intrigue.
There’s no reason to believe it’s over now. Faber said he enjoyed having an enemy, something new to his career. Cruz wasn’t going to disagree.
“It was fun to talk trash,” Cruz said. “Sometimes, it’s easy to talk trash on a guy like Urijah.”