Dominick Cruz began his second reign as UFC bantamweight champion with an entertaining victory over TJ Dillashaw at Fight Night 81 on 17 January. After a close and highly entertaining contest, the 30-year-old was pronounced the winner via split decision at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.
Two judges scored the bout 48-47 and 49-46 in his favour, while a third had it 49-46 to Dillashaw. Cruz first won the title after beating Scott Jorgensen in December 2010, but was unfortunately stripped in 2014 after a torrid time with injury that included three anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) operations.
After emerging victorious from just his second appearance in the Octagon in more than four years, he said: "It just felt good to have the belt and know that I belong here. You have your doubts when you go through what I've gone through.
"Four years (away) from fighting and you come back and face one of what's said to be one of the pound-for-pound best. These guys, I shouldn't technically maybe be able to go with them. But I'm winning."
Dillashaw claimed the belt following a stunning stoppage of Renan Barao at UFC 173. He retained it in a rematch in addition to knocking out late-replacement challenger Joe Soto in August 2014 and felt he had done enough to secure a third successful defence.
"I'm very disappointed," he said. "I thought I had the fight, I thought I was the aggressor, I thought I pushed the pace.
"I feel like the last two rounds I won pretty decisively. I felt I won the fight, I want to do it again. Props to Dominick. I missed some shots, it was my fault for not following them up."
In the co-main event, Eddie Alvarez surprisingly beat Anthony Pettis via split decision. Travis Browne stopped heavyweight rival Matt Mitrione in round three, while Francisco Trinaldo coasted past Ross Pearson. There were also victories for Patrick Cote, Ed Herman, Chris Wade and Luke Sanders during the preliminary bouts.