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Cruz Captures WEC Bantamweight Title After Bowles Doesn't Answer Bell

He may not have gotten the highlight-reel finish that every fighter hopes will mark a championship, but Dominick Cruz accomplished his goal of leaving with gold around his waist after Brian Bowles did not answer the bell for round three of their WEC bantamweight championship at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.

The win, however, was no fluke. Cruz used his height and reach advantage to control the standup, outlanding the hard-punching Bowles over the 10 minutes the pair fought.

Before the third round, the champion Bowles decided he could not continue, and his verbal submission gave Cruz the belt.

"Brian's a great champ, and he fought his heart out, but I did, too," said the 24-year-old Cruz, who dedicated the win to his mother.

The fight went Cruz's way right from the beginning. The challenger rocked Bowles with a right just before the midway point of the round, but Bowles backed off and Cruz was hesitant in moving forward, giving Bowles valuable recovery time.

One minute later, Bowles moved in with a combination, but in trying a guillotine, the two fell to the ground with Cruz ending up on top. Though the pair returned to their feet, Cruz's accuracy landed the more effective strikes throughout the round.

Bowles said later that he broke his hand with the first punch he threw in the fight, and he could be seen shaking it out, particularly in the second round.

In a rare bit of post-fight candidness, Bowles admitted the injury shook him.

"It threw me off," said Bowles, who dropped to 8-1 with his first career loss. "My mind started thinking about my hand. It got in my mind instead of concentrating on fighting."

Cruz established himself further in the second. Dancing around the cage and offering no target for Bowles, Cruz was able to move into and out of striking range at will and land strikes while Bowles began to swing wildly hoping to land one big punch. Bowles suffered a cut over the eye from one of the exchanges, and Cruz punctuated the round with a late takedown.

Bowles went back to his corner dejectedly and when the referee asked the fighters to come out for round three, Bowles declined, giving Cruz (15-1) the win and the title.
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