On Wednesday night, the UFC announced the bantamweight fight that everyone has been waiting to see ever since TJ Dillashaw dominated Renan Barao to capture 135lb gold. Dillashaw’s third title defense will come against the first ever UFC bantamweight champion, and a man who never lost the belt in the cage, Dominick Cruz. The card is scheduled for January 17th in Boston, and will be shown on Fox Sports 1 (the first time a title has ever been on the line on the channel). While Cruz was out for 35-months dealing with multiple knee and leg injuries it seemed that Barao had taken over the mantle of the premiere bantamweight, but on two separate occasions, Dillashaw dominated the Brazilian in fashion rarely seen in a title fight. Sandwiched between those performances was a successful defense against Joe Soto stemming from some of the strangest circumstances in recent history. Cruz returned from his initial gauntlet of injuries to show that, at worst, he was equal to his WEC and early UFC self. In 61 seconds, he stopped former title challenger Takeya Mizugaki, following an absolute mauling. It was Cruz’ first (non-doctor) TKO stoppage at any point during his Zuffa career, and all the ingredients were there for him to challenge for the belt he was forced to relinquish. However, things can’t be that easy for Cruz and by the time this bout with Dillashaw rolls around, he will have been out for another 16 months due to tearing his other ACL following the Mizugaki fight. For most fighters, the combination of facing Dillashaw and the multiple massive layoffs for serious knee injuries would be far too much to overcome, but Dominick Cruz has proven already that he is not most fighters. This fight should go down as one of the best the UFC has ever shown on cable. The line should be an interesting one as well, probably opening very close to even, with a slight edge towards the more active current champion. Also announced for the same card (UFC Fight Night 81) was another little ho-hum bout. Former WEC and UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis will take on former Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez in a bout sure to deliver some fun action. With Pettis’ smooth kickboxing style and Alvarez’ aggressive boxing, this one could turn into a very interesting affair on the feet. However, given each of their last performances I could also see it playing out with Alvarez scoring takedowns and maintaining top control over Pettis who simply isn’t able to get up and create separation. Pettis has Alvarez outgunned on the feet here, so a straight kickboxing match will likely see the former Bellator champion get dropped and finished. That makes the most interesting aspect of this fight what sort of gameplan Alvarez uses, as he isn’t normally a prolific wrestler, but has the tools when he needs them, and that presents his best opportunity to win this bout. Pettis will probably find himself somewhere between 2- and 3-to-1 in this fight, but his public perception may have taken a big dip following the dos Anjos loss. The UFC also announced a pair of additional bouts for upcoming cards. Jim Miller will face Michael Chiesa in what could turn into a fun grappling battle at lightweight. That bout will take place at UFC Fight Night 80. Also, rising bantamweight stars Thomas Almeida and Anthony Birchak will meet at UFC Fight Night 77. In some other news, Phillipe Lins had to pull out of his Bellator 142 tournament reserve bout against Francis Carmont due to Degue Fever. We can file that one under “That’s So Bellator.” Carmont will now face Roy Boughton in the light heavyweight tournament reserve bout, but hopefully neither will be called into action a second time on the night. Also, Ronda Rousey will be starring in a remake of Road House. I’ve only seen Rousey’s “acting” in her short appearance in Fast and the Furious 7, but that’s enough to lead me to believe this movie will be dreadful. Maybe her acting chops have gotten better since then, but worst-case scenario this movie will join the other terrible remakes of awesome 80’s films like The Karate Kid and Footloose (yeah, the original Footloose was awesome, get over it).
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