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FIGHT CLUB: Dominick Cruz comes out shining despite losing his belt to young star Cody Garbrandt

In this week's Fight Club, Alex Rea looks at the encounter between Dominick Cruz and Cody Garbrandt at UFC 207.

Alex Rea 2017/01/01

Two of the best bantamweight fighters of all time lost at UFC 207. Yet their responses to the setback could not have been more to the contrary. On the one hand you had Ronda Rousey.

The former women’s 135lbs champion skated out of Las Vegas’s T-Mobile Arena after defeat to Amanda Nunes in a quicker fashion than the fight itself.

She refused to do any post-fight media, continuing her vow of silence which started in the weeks prior to the bout, and instead hid behind a statement released via ESPN some hours later.

Deposed men’s bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz, however, faced the music and many are singing his praises for how he handled the most difficult defeat of his career. And rightly so. Cruz was clearly wearing the pain of failure but he was all class in his praise of newly crowned champ Cody Garbrandt and his philosophical outlook on defeat was a real breath of fresh air.

“I was there. That was 100 percent me. I was healthy, I was everything I’ve always been in my eyes. I got caught in a couple transitions and that’s how it goes in this game. You’re swinging four-ounce  gloves. You get caught sometimes,” Cruz said in his post-fight press conference.

“What else can you really say about that? I’ve got to go back and watch the fight obviously. After feeling it, after getting through it, after seeing the look in his eyes a couple of times when I punched him, when I kicked him, when I fought him, I’m not disappointed in myself at all. All I can say is I lost and I’ll take my loss like a man.”

It’s easy to carry yourself with poise and to dish out respect in victory but to do so with the sting of defeat still ringing in your ear is commendable. Garbrandt was simply the better fighter. The conventional wisdom going into the clash was that Cruz would be the elusive wizard with his perpetual and unorthodox movement negating the power of Garbrandt.

What we didn’t account for, was the composure of the 25-year-old challenger. Garbrandt goaded the champ into wild and easily telegraphed strikes from outside the pocket. He utilised excellent head movement and footwork to get out of trouble and then peppered Cruz with strikes of machine-gun speed and sniper-like precision.

It was no surprise then as Garbrandt’s hand was raised high but his victory means a fascinating narrative could play out in 2017 for the bantamweight division. We’re now left with a trio of supremely talented rivals heading up the division, with TJ Dillashaw, Garbrandt and Cruz all possessing their own thrilling brand of MMA which, between the three of them, can create enticing match-ups.

Indeed, the first of which will likely see Dillashaw take on his former Team Alpha Male counterpart Garbrandt after his virtuoso performance against John Lineker in the fight proceeding the newly crowned champ’s.

“You know what? I had so much fun in there. Dom has been arguably the best bantamweight in the world,” Garbrandt said post-fight.

“I’d like to give Dom a rematch, but it’s ultimately up to the UFC. I’m the baddest dude in the world, so bring (Dillashaw) on. Anybody in my division, come and try taking (the championship) from me.”

GOOD WEEK

Mirko Cro Cop

It warms the heart to see the big Croatian still finding success despite turning 42 a couple of months back. The MMA legend stopped Amir Aliakbari in the first round of the finals of Japan’s Rizin 2016 Openweight World Grand Prix at the Saitama Super Arena.

His triumph came 10 years after he won the Pride grand prix and also saw him showered with many prizes which included a custom made Casio G-shock, a medal and belt, $300,000 and a cruise to Barcelona.

BAD WEEK

Tim Means

‘Dirty Bird’ needs to scrub up on the MMA rules book. His clash with Alex Oliveira at UFC 207 was ruled a no contest, although, that will likely be changed to a DQ, after he launched a pair of knees into the downed Oliveira.

The Brazilian’s knee was quite clearly on the mat despite protestations from Means that the knees were legal. According to the current Unified Rules of MMA, an opponent with anything other than the soles of his feet on the mat is, in fact, a downed opponent, making strikes like the ones Means delivered illegal.

FLASHBACK

McGregor’s a two-weight world champion

Saturday would not just have been about celebrating the year’s end for Conor McGregor. On December 31 2012 he became a two-weight world champion with the Cage Warriors promotion after he sensationally knocked out Ivan Buchinger.

It was a feat which the Irishman always proclaimed, even before entering the promotion, he would repeat in the UFC. Of course, he did so at UFC 205 by knocking out Eddie Alvarez.

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Cody Garbrandt Conor McGregor Dominick Cruz Fight Club Tim Means UFC 207 UFC MMA