Dominick Cruz is back in the win column for the first time since June 2016. Cruz managed to outlast the stiff test of Casey Kenney in the featured preliminary bout of UFC 259, taking a split decision after three hard-fought rounds in the UFC APEX in Las Vegas.
From the opening moments of the fight, Cruz fought with his trademark unorthodox footwork that propelled him to the top of the bantamweight division for more than six years. As Cruz dipped, ducked and dodged, he was able to keep Kenney guessing through the first round, landing punches from unorthodox angles and threatening with takedown attempts.
Kenny began to find success by focusing his offense on leg kicks, slowly chopping away at the former champion as the two were nearly dead even in both strikes thrown and landed through the first two rounds of their bantamweight contest.
Round 3 continued to see the fighters go strike-for-strike, but it was a late takedown that may have sealed the deal for Cruz, who had only fought once -- a May 2020 loss to then-champion Henry Cejudo -- since losing the title in December 2016. Cruz drove forward with a body lock before dipping down with a knee pick to score a takedown in the final minute of the fight.
"Well, a little closer than I wanted," Cruz said after his victory. "But I got the job done. ... Usually I don't score takedowns a lot, that's what I hear from everyone. In mixed martial arts, you've got to mix it up, right?"
Can't get enough boxing and MMA? Get the latest in the world of combat sports from two of the best in the business. Subscribe to Morning Kombat with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell for the best analysis and in-depth news.
The final horn sounded with Cruz in top position, landing strikes from top position to leave a positive memory in the judges' minds as they tallied their scorecards.
Cruz took the decision by scores of 29-28, 28-29 and 30-27, picking up a win in one of the very few fights in his career in which he entered an underdog. After the win, Cruz took the time to call out a man who he claims holds up fighters' sponsorship deals.
"I would love to get a charity fight lined up," Cruz said. "There's a guy named Hans Molenkamp, who's been holding a lot of fighters hostage and saying he's an awesome pro fighter and he can take out everybody. I would love Monster to pick a charity of their choice and me and Hans go at it."
Cruz took no issue with the trash talk in the lead up to his bout with Kenney.
"I have no idea what people are going to think of that. I'm sure they will find a way to critique me and do nothing but talk trash, because that's what their job is," Cruz said. "It's to find the flaws and stick with those and not say anything nice about me. All you can do is say ok, water off a duck's back. I'll keep talking nice about these guys, because that's my job and expect nothing in return."