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Friday, Dec 17, 2010

Cruz Earns First UFC Bantamweight Title, Pettis Dethrones Henderson

By Dustin Lee DePue

Phoenix, AZ—The Jobing.com Arena was the final resting place for a promotion that has dazzled fans for years with top notch match making and fantastic fighters.  Long the bastion of lighter than lightweight fighters across the U.S., World Extreme Cage Fighting’s final show featured two of its three great champions risking their belts before heading to the UFC.  In the first of the two title fights, 135lb champion Dominick Cruz dominated challenger Scott Jorgenson for five rounds en route to a unanimous decision.  The WEC’s swan song also saw Anthony Pettis steal away Ben Henderson’s lightweight belt to become the WEC’s last lightweight champion.  Pettis will now get a shot at the UFC title against the winner of the Edgar vs Maynard fight on New Year’s Day.
In the main event, Anthony Pettis used crisp striking and excellent timing to chip away at champion Ben Henderson over the course of five competitive rounds, earning a unanimous decision victory and a shot at the UFC lightweight title.  Henderson took the lead early after edging Pettis in the first round with a pair of takedowns and some punches from on top.  Despite losing the round, Pettis managed a sharp counter right hand that stung Henderson.  It would be the first of many. 
Pettis knocked Henderson down early in the second round and nearly took his back.  Henderson worked to his feet but ate several stiff counter punches as Pettis gained confidence.  In the third it was Pettis with the takedown after eating an overhand right from Henderson.  Pettis took Henderson’s back and looked for the rear naked choke but was unable to catch the champion.
The fourth round saw a series of momentum shifts that had the crowd in a frenzy as Henderson escaped a guillotine attempt before taking Pettis’ back and nearly securing a rear naked choke.  Pettis defended well and exploded, twisting out and then taking Henderson’s back.  Henderson escaped but on the feet, Pettis’ Duke Rufus pedigree showed as he cracked the champion with another right hand followed by a combination that prompted Henderson to shoot in at the bell. 
The final round saw Pettis landing with more frequency.  He ripped Henderson with a counter left hand followed by a right hook that had Henderson thinking takedown.  Pettis timed the champ’s shot and caught him with a knee to the face.  But it was Pettis’ Hollywood inspired wall-walk kick that had everyone crying Matrix.  In a brilliant display of timing and athleticism, Pettis jumped and pushed off of the cage wall with his right leg and then executed a flying head kick with the same leg that landed flush on Henderson’s face and sent him crashing to the mat.  It was, simply put, one of the coolest things to ever happen inside the cage.  Pettis jumped on the fallen champ and pounded away as Henderson covered.  In the end, the judges awarded Pettis the decision by scores of 48-47, 48-47, 49-46,
How can anyone prepare for a guy like Dominick Cruz?  That was the question that kept coming to me while watching a performance that bordered on acid-jazz.  Cruz’s supremely unorthodox footwork and punching style is puzzling enough just to watch, much less figure out when you’re eating those off-rhythm punches.  That style, paired with Cruz’s speed and athleticism proved too much for tough contender Scott Jorgensen who found himself getting outpunched and outwrestled.  Cruz shucked and jived, slipping in and out of range, his head dipping forward as punch seemed to shoot out in the opposite direction, making constant contact with Jorgenson’s head. 
Cruz put together combinations, often rattling off four punches and a low kick before bounding out of range.   Jorgenson was game but overmatched.  He managed to bring Cruz to the mat but was unable to keep him there and actually found himself on his back as Cruz mixed in takedowns.  When it was all over, Cruz won all five rounds and earned his place as the first UFC 135lb champion.
Donald Cerrone notched his second win in a row, submitting Chris Horodecki with a triangle choke. After a first round that saw the fighters trading strikes, with Cerrone landing a pair of solid knees to the body and Horodecki landing a hard right hand, Cerrone used his grappling prowess to put Horodecki in trouble early in the second.  After getting taken down, Cerrone attacked with submissions, transitioning from an omaplata attempt to a triangle choke that forced Horodecki to tap at 2:43 of the second round.
Kamal Shalorus edged out Bart “Bartimus” Palaszewski by split decision in a competitive affair that could have gone either way.  Shalorus took the lead in the first, using his immense strength and world-class wrestling to keep Bartimus on his back eating punches for much of the round.  Bartimus had more success in the second round as he was able to stay on his feet and score with one-two combos and low kicks.  He scored a glancing head kick before getting taken down with 90 seconds left in the round.
 In the final round, Shalorus started to slow down, allowing Bartimus to continue working his jab.  Shalorus had trouble getting Bartimus down, eating a knee and nearly getting caught in a guillotine, but was eventually able to get his man down and land some good elbows.  Bartimus managed to work to the feet with time running out, scoring several knees and a head kick before the bell sounded.  Though it was close, two judges saw it in Shalorus’s favor as he wins by scores of 30-27, 28-29, 29-28.
Televised results
Anthony Pettis def Ben Henderson by Unanimous Decision (48-47, 48-47, 49-46)
Dominick Cruz def Scott Jorgensen by Unanimous Decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-45)
Donald Cerrone def Chris Horodecki by Triangle Choke 2:43 Rd 2
Kamal Shalorus def Bart Palaszweski by Split Decision (30-27, 28-29, 29-28)
posted by Full Contact Fighter @ 12:34 pm
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