January 12, 2016

UFC Fight Night 81: Dillashaw vs. Cruz Offers Compelling Storylines

By Raphael Garcia
The mixed martial arts world is in for a compelling treat with Sunday night’s UFC Fight Night 81 card. From top to bottom there are a number of interesting fights that are worth attention, and the main event bout between Dominick Cruz and T.J. Dillashaw is a fight that has hardcore fans and media pundits alike interested in its outcome.. For a number of reasons, this is a title bout that should not be missed.

Both Cruz and Dillashaw have a lot hinging on this fight. And the way both fighters are taking shots at each other in the media, one would think this fight is years in the making and that there’s a long history between them.

Cruz is often overlooked as one of the most dominant champions this sport has seen. He never lost the bantamweight title that he brought over from WEC. Injuries have been his toughest opponent, as they snatched away nearly four years of his career. When he returned from a prolonged absence at UFC 178 and smashed Takeya Mizugaki, a fighter that only suffered one other knockout defeat in his career, the MMA world took note. Cruz was back. But unfortunately, he would be gone again for a significant time just as quickly as those 61 seconds flew by.

At the same time, T.J. Dillashaw capitalized on Cruz’s absence and became the center of the 135-pound weight class. His reign as champion hasn’t been spectacular, but this fight against Cruz gives him the opportunity to change all that.

The controversy surrounding Dillashaw’s departure from Team Alpha Male adds to the equation, as both an important talking point and a potential distraction. If Dillashaw loses this fight, the immediate storyline will be that leaving his former team played a part. It doesn’t matter whether that is the actual truth; it is bound to come up in one way or another. Cruz continues to use that development as one of the many ways he has chosen to attack Dillashaw’s character leading up to this fight, and questions continue to swirl around the champion’s preparation at Team Elevation.

In addition, a victory for Cruz will immediately allow him to retake his spot among the top five pound-for-pound fighters in mixed martial arts. His style may not excite everyone, but Cruz is a competitor that deserves recognition and placement on this short list of elite fighters. Taking back his title, especially in spectacular fashion, will force all those who believe otherwise to recognize how great Cruz has been over his career. 

Anytime the UFC offers a championship bout on free television, that is meant to pull the viewers in. Dillashaw and Cruz each have their own storylines heading into this fight and walking out of them, regardless of the outcome. No matter who comes out on top, this fight is going to elevate one man and potentially elevate the entire bantamweight division.

UFC Fight Night 81
TJ Dillashaw vs. Dominick Cruz (UFC Bantamweight Championship)

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UFC Fight Night 81: Dillashaw vs. Cruz takes place on January 17, 2015 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.

Click the stars to rate how good you think UFC Fight Night 81 will be.

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