Josh Gross
Sunday March 7th, 2010

Herewith five things we learned from Saturday night's WEC 47 in Columbus, Ohio:

1. Dominick Cruz rose to the top for a reason.

Twenty-four-year-old Dominick Cruz knew he was going to be a mixed martial arts champion.

This wasn't blind belief. This came out of the dirt.

Every day Cruz could work on being the best, he did. Hard. And it paid off beautifully when he danced around Brian Bowles like the WEC champion was a standing heavy bag.

True to his nickname, Cruz (15-1) dominated every facet of the fight, which ended after two rounds when an Ohio ringside physician called it because of Bowles' broken right hand. Bowles (8-1) said afterwards the fracture cost him his focus and, as such, he couldn't in gear. It was an honest and rare admission of mental failure from a fighter. But that isn't the reason he was countered with right hooks or slammed repeatedly in the thighs. That was because he was facing Cruz, a wrestler whose speed, footwork, movement, pace and rhythm make him one of the most unique and effective strikers in MMA.

"He really caught on to footwork right away," said Eric Del Fierro, Cruz's trainer of three-and-a-half years. "He caught on to the basic boxing, basic kickboxing. He took the footwork a lot farther than what we do."

Saturday night, Cruz moved like his dancing inspirations Muhammad Ali and Roy Jones Jr. Not bad for a kid who three years ago had zero flexibility and couldn't throw a kick.

2. Dominick Cruz-Joseph Benavidez rematch a must -- You may have noticed, the WEC wants to sell us fights now. If they put together a second bout between the new bantamweight champion and Benavidez, I'd recommend it to people as the best example of the sport they could spend their money on. Seriously. I believe that.

Two competitive guys in their mid-20s, in peak form, with differing styles that rely on quickness. Umm, yeah. Cruz and Benavidez -- a training partner of Urijah Faber who just tore through Miguel Torres to improve his record to 12-1 -- went the distance seven months ago in the best fight of the night.

No more wishing for extra rounds.

Scott Jorgensen (9-3), who snared an ugly 10-finger guillotine against Chad George (11-5) in 31 seconds on the undercard, can wait. Let him fight Antonio Banuelos again. He'd probably probably prefer that over a title shot at this point.

It took some time to sort out, and there's still room to grow, but the bantamweight division is quickly becoming one of MMA's best.

3. Arizona is the best wrestler-to-MMAer state -- If you heard Cruz during the post-fight interview on Versus, he mentioned his hometown of Tucson, Ariz. Chalk up one more champion from the desert.

Arizona Combat Sports in Tempe has asserted itself as one of the best fight factories in the states. Arizona State wrestling has turned into a breeding ground for pro fighters.

From the land of Don Frye, Dan Severn, Dan Henderson, Cain Velasquez and many others, Cruz looks like a fine addition.

4. Jens Pulver had a tremendous career -- As kids continue to change the sport, mixed martial arts' "second generation" is finally being betrayed by the same thing that claims all athletes. Fading youth. Punishment to the body. Fleeting motivation. There is, after all, only one Randy Couture.

Judging by the emotion in his voice and the tone of his sentiments, we're done seeing Jens Pulver (22-13-1) lace up four-ounce gloves. At least for a while. Pulver is mixed martial arts' first great lightweight. He won the UFC belt on Dana White's debut card as a promoter. He defended it in Las Vegas, a first for MMA, on the UFC's return to pay-per-view. And then he validated it by winning a decision against B.J. Penn in the first lightweight-headlined UFC.

Time worked its magic and Pulver, now, is 35 and a loser in seven of his last eight fights, the last four in the opening round. I don't doubt he'll fight again. At some point his heart, the thing that really made Pulver special -- both in the cage and out -- will churn up enough dander that he has to get out there again. But as a professional fighter Saturday night, he acknowledged he doesn't have it anymore. And, essentially, that's the same thing.

"Lil Evil" -- a nickname that worked and didn't work at the same time -- should have a great future in color commentary. The sport needs great voices on television to tell the audience what's happening. So long as he does it with impartiality, he'll be great.

5. Fighters need to stop apologizing for winning the "wrong way" -- This apologizing-after-winning thing needs to stop. Watch enough mixed martial arts and you'll see this -- all the time. A victorious fighter. An eager interviewer. And the subsequent mea culpa that isn't worth anything because it doesn't mean anything.

I wasn't exciting enough. I'm sorry.

I didn't stand and bang. I'm sorry.

I just pulled a come-from-behind armbar on a tough-as-nails Armenian guy. I'm sorry.

Bart Palaszewski (34-13) pulled off a sneaky armbar against Karen Darabedyan (9-2), and then for some reason stood in the center of the ring and acted like he had something to apologize for.

No Bart, you didn't. None of you guys do. Stop it.

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