Welcome to our live coverage of UFC Fight Night 81: Dillashaw vs. Cruz from the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The event is headlined by UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw making his third title defense against the man who never lost the championship, former UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, who fights for the title for the first time since having to vacate it due to injuries. The co-main event will be a fight between former UFC Lightweight Champion Anthony Pettis and former Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez.
UFC Fight Night 81 Weigh-In Results
UFC Fight Night 81 DFS Playbook
UFC Fight Night 81 Observer Picks & Preview
Ryan Frederick will be providing additional commentary on our Twitter account too.
Fight Pass Prelims —
> Francimar Barroso (18-4, 3-1 UFC) def. Elvis Mutapcic (15-4, 0-1 UFC) via u/d (30-27 x 2, 29-28)
Kicking off right on time with our first prelim fight of the night. Light attendance in the upper level and the lower bowl is slowing filling in. I’ll be tweeting random stuff as well, so follow me at @JoshNason for that and press conference stuff. I will say that I saw JNPO guest and Sherdog scribe/audio stylist Jack Encarnacao at dinner and he confirmed he will not be in this year’s Royal Rumble.
R1: Mutapic was breathing through his mouth early, likely because of a combination of an adrenaline dump in his first UFC fight and the kicks to the midsection from Barroso. Barroso got a takedown midway through the round and didn’t do a lot of advance, finally landing some ground and pound late to earn him the round. I didn’t catch the ref’s name, but he might be having a little Octagon shock himself. 10-9 Barroso
R2: Barroso found homes for his continued kicks to the midsection, landing a few leg kicks for good measure. Mutapcic’s mouthpiece fell out twice, much to the dismay of the crowd. Barosso bloodied up Mutapcic’s nose and right eyebrow, but Mutapcic started to find his range at the end of the round. Tough one to call, but I’ll swing it 10-9 Barroso for more damage. Mutapcic is mouth open gassed.
R3: Mutapcic’s mouthpiece fell out again and he was admonished by the ref. He’s got Octagon control on his side, and Barroso is looking like he’s in survive and escape mode. He keeps landing that midsection kick through, but isn’t throwing enough of them. Mutapcic won this round 10-9 as Barroso seemed confident he won the first two. If the judges saw that second round differently though…
Story Of The Fight: Barroso wins with one judge seeing it the way I did. Neither guy looks to be a prospect to worry about at 205.
> Rob Font (12-1, 2-0 UFC) def. Joey Gomez (6-1, 0-1 UFC) by TKO at 4:13 of round 2
Gomez got introduced as Barroso was leaving as we’re on a tight timeframe for these FP prelims. Lots of bass in the intros. For those that haven’t been to UFC before, your ears will be ringing the next day. Font has trained a lot of BJJ with one of New Hampshire’s few BJJ black belts in Tim Barchard, the man I earned my blue belt from. During the intros, Font got a Joe Lauzon pop from the Boston crowd. Who knew he was such a hit? For those that went to that first Boston show, the Lauzon finish of Gabe Reudiger and the resulting ovation is something of legend in my old mind anyway.
R1: Not much happening on the feet, but Font is controlling the center of the cage early on. Font had no issues getting several takedowns and started to get more comfortable on his feet as the fight evolved. Font lands a nice right elbow near the end of the round to seal it 10-9. Gomez looks overwhelmed in his first UFC outing.
R2: Font is looking more and more comfortable on his feet, but is lunging a little bit — almost impatient waiting for Gomez to do something which he really isn’t. As I type that, Gomez lands a hard kick to Font’s side. Font hits Gomez with a left hook andd swarms. Gomez wisely waits out the storm and goes for a takedown, savvy for a young fighter. It’s almost like it woke him up. We get back to the feet and Font is pouring it on, knocking out Gomez’s mouthpiece with an uppercut. Gomez covers up, falls to his butt, and Herb Dean calls it quickly.
Story Of The Fight: With Joe Lauzon part of the old guard of New England MMA, Font could be the new guy around these parts if he can continue to put things together. Gomez looks overwhelmed and Font’s stand-up was just too much of him.
> Charles Rosa (11-2, 2-2 UFC) def. Kyle Bochniak (6-1, 0-1 UFC) by u/d (29-28 x 2, 30-27)
Bochniak changed his nickname for the night to “Crash” out of respect to Ben “Killer B” Saunders who fights later in the show. This is the third straight fight of the night where a guy is making his Octagon debut, a symptom of an undercard crushed by injury.
R1: Large “Rosa” chant early as Bochniak makes Rosa’s left cheekbone turn pink. Rosa is content to throw kicks, but Bochniak nails him with a right to put him down. As Bochniak attacks, Rosa goes for a leglock but Bochniak escapes. Bochniak has a big red welt on his right side. With about 10 seconds to go, a whistle went off and both guys stopped for a minute. That was weird. 10-9 Bochniak. He seems very comfortable in there for a rookie.
R2: This is turning into a spirited affair on the feet. Rosa has a lot of fans, but Bochniak has got his people too. Rosa is still throwing kicks while Bochniak wants to throw harmful shots. Rosa secures a takedown with about a minute to go that might win him the round, but can’t hold him there for long. Then with 20 seconds left, bloody noseed Bochniak secures a power takedown on Rosa. Tough round to score, but I’ll say 10-9 Bochniak for the variety of shots, aggression, and the takedown.
R3: Bochniak is gassed, hands down by his side, and in survival mode. He’s still looking for headshots, but Rosa is smartly picking and choosing his shots. Still, Bochniak is landing. People are loving this fight. Bochniak looked for a takedown twice, but is dead. Rosa 10-9. Fun round between two completely exhausted fighters.
By my scorecard, that’s a 29-28 for Bochniak but that second round was tough to call.
Story Of The Fight: There were a few boos for the decision — surprising since Rosa is a Boston guy. I don’t understand a 30-27 card for Rosa, but then again, I scored the second for Bochniak, so what do I know?
> Ilir Latifi (11-4-0-1, 4-2 UFC) vs. Sean O’Connell (17-7, 2-3 UFC) by first round KO (:30)
These guys are out here in record time and only got one entrance song!
R1: Latifi hit a power right to O’Connell that put him on his back. He hit him again with a right on the way down and ref Kevin MacDonald jumped in to stop it quick. This felt like a quick stoppage for sure. Needing some extra time, UFC got a gift on that one.
Story Of The Fight: Latifi is a strong freakin’ dude, but the stoppage felt quick as O’Connell didn’t go flat and MacDonald essentially called the fight before he even fully hit the mat. Latifi said in the postfight that he wants to go fight in the main event of the next UFC show in Sweden this summer.
> Paul Felder (11-2, 3-2 UFC) def. Daron Cruickshank (16-8-0-1, 6-6-0-1 UFC) by third round RNC submission (3:53)
This one should be fun as both guys are known for having, well, fun fights. I still can’t get over how Latifi and O’Connell got one entrance song and the fight was over in just 30 seconds, can you? UFC continues to experiment with having a “featured fight” on Fight Pass instead of loading up FS1 with all the good stuff. If you’re trying to build a service where people are paying for good fights, that seems to be a pretty good idea. Also a good idea: putting a guy named “The Irish Dragon” on a Boston show.
R1: Cruickshank is so quick with his kicks, it’s amazing. He went after Felder’s hips with them, which seems like a good idea. Felder is content to stalk him down, but the “Detroit Superstar” is too fast for that. Great spot with about 1:30 to go where Cruickshank went for a takedown and the crowd began to buzz, but Felder attempted a guillotine instead. After another spinning back kick from Cruickshank, Felder went for a takedown and got reversed immediately. Great round for DC: 10-9.
R2: Cruickshank is just so good on his feet; he misses a kick and lands one .0005 seconds later. This round was great when it wasn’t wrestling on the ground. Cruickshank loves the “spinning shit” and is overwhelming Felder with spinning back fists and spinning kicks. He hit a perfect side kick to the face that was a work of stand-up art. So much fun. Felder went for a reverse triangle ala Liam McGeary which has the Shankster in some trouble. The fans are into Shank’s stand-up so they want to see him get out of this. That offensive barrage in the middle? Awesome. 10-9 Shank.
R3: Cruickshank spent the first half of the round fighting off Felder’s backpack attack. With about 1:10 to go, he sunk in a guillotine choke and got the tap which the crowd popped big for. Impressive come from behind win!
Story Of The Fight: Cruickshank had this one in the bag, but had nothing in the third round and it cost him. At 3-2, he needs some consistency in the division to really be a force but he’s an action fighter so he’ll have plenty of opportunities to improve.
Fox Sports One prelims —
> Luke Sanders (11-0, 1-0 UFC) def. Maximo Blanco (12-7-1-1, 4-4 UFC) by first round submission at 3:38
R1: Another UFC debut in Sanders, an undefeated fighter giving up a little bit of size. A hard left by Sanders puts Blanco on his rear, but Blanco is a veteran and reversed it into top position and a sub attempt. Sanders hit another big left hook and dropped him again, snagging back control and a deep rear naked choke for the tap and win. Huge win by Sanders.
Story Of The Fight: Sanders made his mark here, the most impressive of the UFC Debut Crew tonight. His cornerman was talking to press row and I think he said Sanders usually fights down a weight class. That snaps a three-fight win streak for Blanco. Hard to say where Sanders goes from here, but I’m interested.
> Chris Wade (10-1, 3-0 UFC) vs. Mehdi Baghdad (11-3, 0-0 UFC)
If there was a musical artist that is most tied to UFC entrances, it’s think it’s either Eminem or DMX. Baghdad is our 5th of the UFC Debut Crew but the final one of the night.
R1: Crowd is chanting ‘USA’ a minute into the fight with the American on top. Okay then. The fight was all Wade working on the ground and Wade eventually sneaking in a rear naked choke for the tap. Baghdad had nothing for him from the second this started.
Story Of The Fight: There really wasn’t one. Wade cruised through an injury replacement and made it look easy.
> Ed Herman (23-11-0-1, 10-7-0-1 UFC) def. Tim Boetsch (18-10, 9-9 UFC) by second round TKO (1:39)
I am all in on these veteran vs. veteran “let’s see what you got” fights. Neither dude is going to be a UFC champion, but desperation and having nothing to lose usually makes for entertaining fights. Let’s do this.
R1: Slobberknocker action early on and Boetsch staggers Herman with a big left hand. In watching this, I feel like I’m outside a bar in my UMaine days at around 1:15 AM. Herman isn’t doing much as I think his gameplan is to have Boetsch wear himself out early. If so, he’s got to survive the meathooks TB is throwing. Herman did well in the clinch, so look for more of that in the second round. Boetsch 10-9
R2: Herman is starting to find a home for his punches and lands a huge knee up the middle to drop TB on his knees. I’m tempted to call ref MacDonald “Quick Draw”, but Boetsch was out of it and taking more shots on the ground. Nice effort for Herman in conserving energy and picking up a much-needed win in a new weight class.
Story Of The Fight: Herman survives to fight another day and with his third straight UFC defeat (six of his last eight), I could see Boetsch either getting cut or retiring. Post-fight, Herman said he’s at 205 to stay and thinks the drug testing and “the sport being cleaned up” will help him out a ton.
> Patrick Cote (24-9, 10-9 UFC) def. Ben Saunders (19-7-2, 7-4 UFC) by 2nd round TKO (1:14)
We got another battle of veterans here to close up the FS1 portion of the show. A winner of five of his last seven, Cote is looking for his third straight victory tonight. Saunders has won all three of his fights since returning to the UFC and has won six of his last seven.
R1: Cote is having a tough time trying to get inside Saunders’ long reach. Saunders hits a takedown, but Cote is doing a nice job at closing the guard and not letting Saunders posture up. Then like an RKO outta nowhere, Cote nearly gets Saunders to tap to an armbar. Cote ended the round on top and won that round 10-9.
R2: For a Quebec guy, the Boston faithful love them some Patrick Cote. Clinch work in the middle and Cote starts landing 10 or so uppercuts in a row. Saunders ate a few and then folded, succumbing to some ground and pound for the finish.
Story Of The Fight: Cote now has three straight wins and six of his last seven. I’d like to see him in there against a higher level of competition, but does he want it or are these veteran fights satisfying enough for him?
FOX SPORTS ONE MAIN CARD —
> Francisco Trinaldo (19-4, 9-3 UFC) def. Ross Pearson (18-10-0-1 NC, 10-7-0-1 UFC) by u/d (30-27 x 2, 29-28)
At 37 years old, Trinaldo is suddenly riding a four-fight win streak while Pearson is looking for his first two fight win streak since 2012-13. Also, I didn’t realize Face The Pain Classic was back as I missed the last few PPV opens. They just couldn’t do it, could they?
R1: Crowd booking early for this one as there’s a lot of feeling out…kind of like when a couple first starts dating. Trinaldo punctuated the round with a huge slam that nearly put Pearson on his head. I think that won the round 10-9 for Trinaldo.
R2: Pearson scored a big takedown, but couldn’t hold Trinaldo down for long. Following a nice spinning kick from Pearson, Trinaldo got Pearson up against the cage and landed two big knees of the ‘ooh…ahh’ variety. Pearson was game to get in there and throw, but Trinaldo’s collection of kicks and knees are finding places to inflict pain. 10-9 Trinaldo.
R3: Trinaldo is throwing Pedro Martinez 1999 heat in there. I remember a few weeks ago when Dave Meltzer was talking about judging, seeing the impact of the punches and how it meant something when it came to scoring. Not having been to a live UFC event in 16 months, I kinda dismissed it as, “Yeah, but…” Seeing this live, however, you really get the idea of how hard these Trinaldo shots are coming in. Pearson got a takedown midway through the round as Trinaldo is starting to fade a bit. Tight round that I’d give to Pearson but not by much.
Trinaldo wins and Pearson doesn’t like the decision.
Story Of The Fight: This is quite the improbable run for Trinaldo, now a winner of five straight. There is hope for guys in their late-30s! Pearson is a .500 fighter at this stage and perhaps a 155-pound liability for someone the UFC doesn’t want to lose. Just a thought.
> Travis Browne (18-3-1, 9-3-1 UFC) def. Matt Mitrione (9-5, 9-5 UFC) by third round TKO (4:09)
The last time Browne was on an FS1 show in Boston, he scored a huge come from behind win over Alistair Overeem. A loser in two of his last three, he needs to win big again here tonight. The same could be said for Mitrione who will become a free agent after this fight and turned down a new contract to see what he’s worth. Yep, we got some stakes in this one. Browne was also booed at weigh-ins, likely due to the accusations of domestic violence as well as his relationship to Ronda Rousey. Fans are like that.
R1: After a lot of circling, Browne opened up on his feet, landing a kick. Mitrione is charging in, but Browne is just missing on a crisp counter. Browne hits the deck, but it was hard to tell whether it was a slip or from a punch as he was back up quick. With 10 seconds to go, Mitrione got poked in the right eye as he charged in. Doctors came in, but Mitrione sad he was ok. I’ll give that to Browne 10-9, but that was kinda dull.
R2: Ohh boy. Browne poked Mitrione again, but because there was a flurry of action, the ref couldn’t stop the fight or didn’t see it so they kept going. Mitrione is fighting with one eye closed and still no stoppage. The look on the ref’s face during this was priceless. The doctors came in to examine as the ref finally called timeout and they didn’t seem to want to let it go. Mitrione seems fine though and we finally get back to action. You know there’s another poke coming though. You just know it. Weird spot as Browne feigned a strike and Mitrione covered up as if he had been hit…but he didn’t pop right back to action.
What a weird round. The one thing I know is these people hate Browne. 10-9 Browne, I guess?
R3: Browne hit a hard straight right that would have dropped either you or I, but man, this is not a good fight. Browne looks tentative, Mitrione probably can’t see, and this crowd is restless. Mitrione has some nasty looking swelling above his right eye. Browne hits a huge takedown, is in full mount, and is pounding away with two minutes to go. With less than a minute to go, the ref calls it and Browne is enjoying a raining of boos. Mitrione’s eye is enormous and the crowd responds like someone just got shot.
Story Of The Fight: Bad fight, everyone hates Browne (no post-fight interview), and Mitrione’s eye will be one of the most shared pics on Twitter tomorrow. At least we have a clear path to Mitrione vs. Kongo II: Electric Boogaloo. (Yes, I used the same joke on Twitter.)
> Eddie Alvarez (27-4, 2-1 UFC) def. Anthony Pettis (18-4, 5-3 UFC)
The former UFC lightweight champion vs. the former Bellator lightweight champion? That’s what you call a dream match. I have a feeling we’ll be wanting five rounds of this before it’s over. There’s a lot to prove for both guys in this one. This is Pettis’ first fight since getting trucked by Rafael dos Anjos for the 155-pound title, while Alvarez is coming off a summer ’15 decision over Giblert Melendez. We still haven’t seen the best Alvarez yet and he’s got a big stage here to make a big statement.
Pettis is out to Eminem, so my prior theory is looking better, isn’t it? As Pettis got in the cage, he walks by Alvarez and the two locked eyes in one of those big fight glances. Good lord, I can’t wait. Both guys are jacked and in fantastic shape. Here we go!
R1: Alvarez doesn’t want to give Pettis any distance and is grinding him up against the cage. Finally free and Pettis shows why that game plan might be best as he throws a head kick and later a glancing back kick with crazy speed. Seconds later, Alvarez is back to the grind. Pettis is punishing Alvarez’s right side with kicks. There’s a group of fans here who are just yelling nonstop swears to Alvarez, but security is doing nothing. I’ll give that 10-9 to Alvarez because of the grappling control. I can see a round for Pettis as he did land more clean shots, just not a ton of them.
R2: Pettis a lot faster than Alvarez, landing two punch combos before Alvarez can respond. EA is going away from the cage grind and wants more of a kickboxing match. Tight round but I give it to Pettis 10-9. Thinking about round 2, I can see Pettis winning that so EA has to come out strong in the third. Security finally told the swearing dudes to hush up. I bet that won’t last long.
R3: If Alvarez thought he won the first round, his approach of grinding here in the third makes a ton of sense. Bloodied up, Alvarez secured a takedown about halfway through the round but Pettis nearly turned it into a heel hook. As Pettis worked his way back up, Alvarez dropped him back down. The last 30 seconds or so were a labor for Alvarez physically. People are going to be pissed one way or another, but this was a close, close round and fight. I gave this round to EA 10-9. Big “Eddie” chant as we await the judges’ scores.
Lots of cheers and boos for the decison and Alvarez’s post-fight promo. He said he wants the champion next and you know, he might have earned it.
Dominick Cruz (21-1, 4-0 UFC) def. T.J. Dillashaw (12-3, 8-3 UFC) to win the UFC Bantamweight title (48-47 Cruz, 49-46 Dillashaw, 49-46 Cruz)
This is a head vs. heart fight pick. My head tells me that Dillashaw was the guy to go with considering Cruz has fought once in the last four years or so. But my heart is saying Cruz is more experienced, confident, and will game plan accordingly. There’s no pressure on Cruz here as he’s playing with house money after all of the surgeries, injuries, and time off from the sport. Cruz’s footwork is on point in the pre-fight warmups.
R1: Dillashaw is swinging at air in the first few minutes. Cruz is still quick as all hell, so Dillashaw is likely going to want to get ahold of him and go to work. Cruz ducks out of the way and lands a nice two-punch combo. This is pretty incredible to watch in person. Dillashaw stalked him the entire round, did catch him occassionally, but Cruz was better on the feet and quicker. Cruz was walking kinda gingerly to the corner like he hurt his foot or something. Might be something to watch. 10-9 Cruz.
R2: Cruz is slowing down a bit and his mouth is open. Dillashaw is finding a rhythm, landing two head kicks and a few punches. Cruz gets back to back takedowns, but can’t hold Dillashaw down for long. These two can’t seem to hit each other. Cruz stared down Dillashaw after the round ended. There’s definitely is something up with Cruz’s right leg. Dillashaw 10-9.
R3: Media scores are all over the place, meaning this is a close fight and probably will end up in another controversal decision. Dillashaw again is landing more and more shots as Cruz slows down, mouth agape. The head kick is landing time and time again. Cruz gets a takedown with less than two minutes to go, but Dillashaw reverses and both guys get a huge pop. People are quietly just watching this play out — it’s kinda nice. Cruz is getting kicked when he looks to escape out the side hatch after a quick clinch. Jesus, that’s another tough round to score. I think Dillashaw took that one 10-9, but it’s a coinflip.
R4: Another Cruz takedown is reversed in milliseconds. Looks like Dillashaw has some swelling above the right eye. Cruz with some nice combos and Dillashaw answers with a takedown and submission attempt. Dillashaw has some blood above his left eye as Cruz is hitting a little harder on the exchanges. Again, another glare at Dillashaw as he walks away. I had this 10-9 Cruz and all tied up going into the 5th.
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R5: I don’t even know how you begin to score this round or this fight. I would say 10-10, but that’s the coward’s way out. I think Cruz won that 10-9 and indeed, he is limping around in the cage. He might have a broken foot and is chatting with Dana and Lorenzo about it.
Cruz wins a tight split decision and the crowd is euphoric. What a moment. Dillashaw is just in disbelief, pacing around. Cruz says that his left foot was injured coming into the fight and is “torn in half” right now. Oh boy. Cruz says to Kenny Florian, “Quit copying and pasting, man!” Dillashaw thought he had the fight won, but there’s no surprise there. Cruz is noticably limping badly walking to the back.
That’s it from here. Hit me up on Twitter for any press conference news and notes!