BOSTON — Dominick Cruz regained the UFC bantamweight title Sunday night, outpointing T.J. Dillashaw by split decision at the TD Garden.
Cruz (21-1) received winning scores of 48-47 and 49-46, and the other judge scored the five-round bout 49-46 for Dillashaw (13-3).
Forced to relinquish the title because of a series of knee injuries, Cruz fought for the first time since 2014 and the second time since 2011. Dillashaw was making his third title defence.
"There’s no such thing as rust," said Cruz, from San Diego. "Rust is only something you get when you don’t train hard. I’ve seen fighters do what T.J. does, but he’s faster."
Cruz took down Dillashaw, from Denver, in each of the first four rounds and used his footwork to control the distance for most of the fight.
"I'm very disappointed," Dillashaw said. "I felt like I was the aggressor and landed the bigger shots. I'm not a fan of his antics, but congratulations to him."
Cruz took down Dillashaw once in the first round, grabbing a leg while Dillashaw was throwing a kick. Toward the end of the round, Cruz fought off a takedown attempt from Dillashaw.
Cruz used his foot speed in the second round, moving in and out of range to land punches. In the final minute of the round, he downed Dillashaw twice with double leg shots.
Dillashaw landed two kicks to the head in the third, opening cuts on Cruz's lips and next to his left eye. Cruz still stayed out of range for most of the round and scored another double-leg takedown.
Dillashaw sustained a cut along the left eye in the fourth, but scored his first takedown of the fight, slipping behind Cruz and forcing him to the mat.
In the fifth, Cruz kept circling. Late in the round, Dillashaw landed a knee to the midsection.
In the co-main event, Eddie Alvarez outpointed former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis in a three-round fight. All three judges scored it 29-28, two for Alvarez (27-4) and one for Pettis (18-4).
Both fighters spent the entire second round on their feet with Pettis defending two takedown attempts. In the first, Alvarez took down Pettis twice, once with a double leg and once with an inside triple.
Bleeding from his nose in the third, Alvarez took down Pettis three times.
Also on the main card, heavyweight Travis Browne stopped former NFL player Matt Mitrione in the third round, and lightweight Francisco Trinaldo won a three-round unanimous decision over Ross Pearson.
Browne improved to 18-3-1, and Mitrione dropped to 9-5.
Trinaldo improved to 17-4, and Pearson fell to 20-10 with one no-contest.