UFC Fight Night 81: Dillashaw vs. Cruz preview

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T.J. Dillashaw looks to defend his belt at Fight Night 81. (Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski/USA TODAY Sports)
T.J. Dillashaw looks to defend his belt at Fight Night 81. (Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski/USA TODAY Sports)
T.J. Dillashaw looks to defend his belt at Fight Night 81. (Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski/USA TODAY Sports) fight night 81 UFC Fight Night 81: Dillashaw vs. Cruz preview TJDillashaw
T.J. Dillashaw looks to defend his belt at Fight Night 81. (Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski/USA TODAY Sports)

Next up for the UFC is UFC Fight Night 81: Dillashaw vs. Cruz on Sunday, January 17 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.

Fight Night 81 gets underway with a five-fight early preliminary card on UFC Fight Pass at 6:00 p.m. eastern, followed by a four-fight preliminary card on FOX Sports 1 at 8:00 p.m. eastern.

Following the preliminary cards will be a four-fight main event at 10:00 p.m. eastern also on FOX Sports 1, headlined by a five-round bantamweight championship bout between T.J. Dillashaw (13-2-0) and Dominick Cruz (20-1-0).

The UFC Fight Night 81 Fight Pass early prelim card features bouts Francimar Barroso (17-14-0) vs. Elvis Mutapcic (15-3-0); Rob Font (11-1-0) vs. Joey Gomez (6-0-0); Ilir Latifi (11-4-0) vs. Sean O’Connell (16-6-0); Charles Rosa (10-2-0) vs. Augusto Mendes (5-0-0); and finishes up with Paul Felder (10-2-0) taking on Daron Cruickshank (16-7-0, 1NC) in a lightweight matchup.

Font vs. Gomez on the Fight Pass card will feature two fighters with local roots. Font, a Boston, Massachusetts native, is entering the Octagon for the second time in his professional MMA career after spending time with the CES MMA promotion. Gomez, of Hollis, New Hampshire, is making his UFC debut on Sunday after fighting for CES MMA and New Hampshire’s Combat Zone MMA. Additionally, Peabody, Massachusetts native Charles Rosa returns to the TD Garden.

A featherweight bout between Maximo Blanco (12-6-1, 1NC) and Luke Sanders (10-0-0) opens on the free Fox Sports 1 card at 8:00 p.m. followed by Chris Wade (10-1-0) vs. Mehdi Baghdad (11-2-0). The FS1 prelim card’s second to last fight features a bout between Ed Herman (23-11-0, 1NC) and Maine’s Tim Boetsch (18-9-0).

The UFC Fight Night 81 main card kicks off at 10:00 p.m. on Fox Sports 1 with a scrappy lightweight bout between Ross Pearson (20-9-0, 1NC) and Francisco Trinaldo (18-4-0). Pearson is 3-3 over his last six bouts. He has alternated wins and losses over those six fights with his last fight ending in a split decision win over Paul Felder in September. Meanwhile, Trinaldo is riding a four-fight win streak, including a first-round TKO win over Chad Laprise in August.

Sunday night’s lone heavyweight bout features Travis Browne (17-3-1) taking on Matt Mitrione (9-4-0) in the second fight of the main card. Browne enters the Octagon having posted a 3-2 record over his last five fights. However, the heavyweight is 1-2 over his last three and is coming off a first-round TKO loss to Andrei Arlovski in May. Mitrione is also 3-2 over his last five and is coming off a loss. Ben Rothwell submitted Mitrione in the first round back in June.

The co-main event features a battle of two former champions. Anthony Pettis (18-3-0), former UFC and WEC lightweight champion, will face former Bellator lightweight champ Eddie Alvarez (26-4-0). Pettis is coming off losing his belt to current champion Rafael dos Anjos in March 2015. The former champ has been rehabbing an injury and looks to work his way back to a title. Alvarez is 1-1 under the UFC banner with his only win coming over former Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez in June.

Lastly, the UFC Fight Night 81 main event.

Dillashaw will look to defend his belt for the third time on Sunday night against tough competition. Cruz looks to get back to where he once stood for a long time, the top. Dillashaw is 8-1 over his last nine bouts with his only loss coming at the hands of Raphael Assunção in a Fight of the Night. Cruz on the other hand hasn’t lost since March 2007 against Urijah Faber at WEC 26. The only reason he doesn’t have his bantamweight belt at the moment was due to numerous injuries. Dominick is 1-0 since returning to the Octagon after a three-year hiatus.

Boston is going to be rocking on Sunday night when UFC Fight Night 81 takes over. The night features a little of something for everyone, including a title clash you won’t want to miss.

Stayed tuned for our UFC Fight Night 81 main card predictions!

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