Dominick Cruz wrested the World Extreme Cagefighting bantamweight title from Brian Bowles after two dominant rounds in the WEC 47 main event Saturday at the Nationwide Arena, bringing an anticlimactic end to a rousing 11-fight slate.
Bowles could not answer the bell after a second round in which he repeatedly shook out a right hand that he could not clench. The former champion claimed he broke his hand on the first punch he landed.
"I knew it right then," Bowles said. "That kind of just threw me off. My mind started thinking about my hand. I broke my hand in my last fight. That started going through my mind instead of concentrating on fighting."
Broken hand or not, Bowles could not keep up with the speed and movement Cruz employed.
Cruz's manager, Matt Stansell, predicted the fight would resemble a bullfight, with the challenger playing the role of matador. It was an accurate prognostication. Cruz made like an apparition, darting in and out, never on the same angle. Bowles tried to charge his elusive foe but repeatedly found himself on the end of a wide right hand counter that stopped him in his tracks on a number of occasions.
Cruz imposed his style more and more as the minutes ticked away, and the frustration mounted for Bowles. Cruz served his best salvo late in the second stanza, when he chased down Bowles, fired punches right down the pike and cut his legs out from under him with a chopping leg kick. As the frame wound down, it became apparent that something was wrong with Bowles' right hand. He stopped throwing it with any conviction and shook it during lulls in the action.
Cruz's corner signaled the end of the fight by exploding in celebration when it saw referee Kevin Mulhall waive off the fight before the start of the third round, delivering the 135-pound belt to the nearly 4-to-1 underdog.
"He popped me a few times in the mouth," Cruz said. "I just had to move a lot, just like I said I was going to do, execute the game plan."
Torres suffers second straight loss
The diminutive Benavidez, at an 11-inch reach disadvantage, had no trouble getting inside on Torres and unexpectedly handled the favorite with relative ease.
Benavidez set the tone early, as he waded into the pocket and cracked Torres with a clubbing right hand that sent him circling away. Torres, returning from his first loss in six years, seemed reluctant to engage, but Benavidez continued to walk him down. Benavidez dropped an off-balance Torres with a glancing shot before muscling him to the mat. From there, he controlled position, opened up for a few elbows and banked the first round.
Round 2 kicked off with an exchange of low kicks before Benavidez faked an overhand right and changed levels for an easy takedown. From dominant position along the cage, Benavidez sliced Torres' forehead wide open with an elbow that he nestled into a heavy salvo of strikes. Torres scrambled back to his feet looking for a takedown, blood pouring from a jagged cut on his forehead. A desperate Torres high-tailed it after Benavidez, but his recklessness cost him dearly.
After a missed armbar attempt, Benavidez caught a retreating Torres in a tight guillotine choke and rolled him over to increase his leverage. Torres tried to stave off the submission, but eventually capitulated 2 minutes, 57 seconds into the second round.
"I've been waiting for this fight forever," Benavidez said. "I was totally prepared for it. I believed in myself."
Vazquez submits Pulver
Pulver scrambled early in the round, but Vazquez overwhelmed the former UFC lightweight champion, sending him to his fifth consecutive defeat. The submission came 3 minutes, 41 seconds into the first round.
"It was an honor for me to fight him," Vazquez said. "You'll never hear me say a bad thing about Jens Pulver. I just tried to follow the game plan, use my striking and then use my jiu-jitsu to finish. I couldn't have scripted it any better."
Vazquez took Pulver down three times in the short contest, though the crowd favorite reversed him twice. Pulver, hoping to keep the scrap on the feet, retreated to his comfort zone on both occasions. The second time, however, Vazquez tripped Pulver on his way out and finished the takedown.
Vazquez quickly moved to his back and searched for Pulver's neck, but "Little Evil" skillfully defended the rear-naked choke. He then twisted in hopes of executing a third reversal, but Vazquez transitioned to the armbar and locked it in. A look of pain covered Pulver's face, as Vazquez cranked on his left arm. The tapout came after the elbow was hyperextended.
"I knew Javy's bad on the ground. You don't want to mess with him on the ground," Pulver said. "He got the takedowns, and before you know it, twist, turn, there's the armbar, pop, pop."
Pulver remained on the canvas in obvious pain, as the crowd yelled encouragement. He eventually returned to his feet and congratulated Vazquez on the win. Pulver stopped short of announcing an official retirement but hinted that the appearance might have been his last in the cage.
"I love you all way, way, way too much to put you all through this again," Pulver said. "You guys have made my life a miracle."
Greg Savage is a contributor to Sherdog.com.