Once upon a time, Tito Ortiz was the most dominant fighter in UFC’s Light Heavyweight division. His prowess came to fruition April 14, 2000, when he beat fellow MMA legend Wanderlai Silva for the UFC Light Heavyweight championship at UFC 25 by way of unanimous decision. He would go on to produce a five-fight, title defense win streak, which ran over the course of three years. Although that run included wins over Vladimir Matyushenko and Evan Tanner, it can be argued that his championship run was not his most impressive streak.
Ending his title run was a loss to Hall of Famer Randy Couture, followed by a second straight loss to fellow HOFer Chuck Lidell. While losses are generally harmful to one’s career, these shortcomings served as a blessing for the “Huntington Beach Bad Boy”. In matches that carried title implications, Ortiz went on a five-fight tear, earning victories over Patrick Cote, Vitor Belfort, Forest Griffin and Ken Shamrock (twice). After an impressive run, Chuck Lidell once again made his presence felt, raining on Ortiz’s parade in a rematch at UFC 66.
Looking to spark another winning streak, Oritz found himself pitted in a UFC 73 bout with Ultimate Fighter Two winner and eventual Light Heavyweight Champion Rashad Evans. The two battled to a draw, which could’ve been won by Ortiz if not for a point deduction early in the bout. It was inevitable for the two to meet again, but no one expected a four-year wait for the rematch. During the wait, the two took different journeys.
Evans would win four of his last five fights, which included a championship win over Forest Griffin, followed by immediate title loss to Lyoto “The Dragon Machida. The year 2010 would bring better fortunes for him in the form of unanimous decisions over Thiago Silva and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson respectively. He also experienced difficulty! In Wanderlai Silva 2011, Evans suffered an injury that kept him from fighting then champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Adding more insult to injury, Evans was forced to witness his former friend and teammate Jon “Bones” Jones beat Rua for the title he once held.
Meanwhile, Ortiz lost three of his four fights. While that isn’t a record to brag on, the way he concluded that stretch is nothing short of commendable. It was at UFC 132 when Ortiz shockingly submitted rising star Ryan Bader 1:56 into the first round, elevating his status as a contender.
With very little time to celebrate, Oritz was called up to face Evans in a rematch at UFC 133, thanks to an injury to Rashad’s original opponent Phil Davis.
After four years of maturity, trials and tribulations, the “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” and “Suga” will collaborate to give MMA Nation volume two of their rivalry/series. Looking at this fight, a lot of factors come to mind. How will Evans fair in his return to the Octagon after an 18-month absence? Is four weeks too soon for Ortiz to lock horns again? Which style will prevail between Evans’ athleticism and Ortiz’s brawling?
While it will behoove Evans not to get caught up in Ortiz’s ground and pound, I think Evans will get the rematch. With the potential of fighting one of his two bitter rivals in the near future, Jon “Bones” Jones or Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, who will square off with each other for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship at UFC 135, Evans has added motivation. Then again, Ortiz wants to do more than show his face. At 36, he knows the window on his career is closing and after scoring a win over Ryan Bader, he wants to prove that the Fountain of Youth does exist in the UFC.
By Antoine Hoffman