Tito Ortiz is back in a main event for the UFC. If you follow the sport, it’s amazing to see those words in regards to Ortiz. It was just three weeks ago that the “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” was entering the Octagon with his career on the line. A career that had so many memorable moments was surely going to come to an end at the hands of the younger, faster, stronger Ryan Baeder. Despite the fact that Ortiz had meant so much to the development of the UFC in the days when the struggling promotion could barely get on Pay-Per-View, UFC President Dana White had made it very clear to Ortiz..”Lose and you are out”. You couldn’t blame White, because as good as Ortiz was in the early days of the UFC, he was just as bad recently. Ortiz came to UFC 132 having not won a fight in almost 5 years. During that time Ortiz had a record of 0-4-1. Not very good, but there is a saying in baseball that applies to all sports, MMA included..it’s short and to the point “that’s why you play the game”. Sure Baeder had won “The Ultimate Fighter” and had only one loss on his record and that loss came to the current light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. Baeder was a clear 3-1 favorite with the odds makers and who could blame them. As the fight started you just hoped that Ortiz would not be embarrassed in his curtain call as Randy Couture had been at UFC 129. As it turned out Ortiz not only wasn’t embarrassed, he looked great as he dropped Baeder with a right hand and sunk in a tight guillotine choke for a surprise win in just 1:56. Ortiz went bananas running around the cage like a guy who had just won his first fight, while Baeder sat stunned on the mat trying to figure out what just happened.
Dana White looked less than pleased in the post fight press conference when he announced that Ortiz won a 75 thousand dollar bonus for “Submission of the Night”. It was crazy and you had to wonder what would be next for Ortiz. Shockingly, we got our answer just two weeks later when Phil Davis had to pull out of his fight with Rashad Evans at UFC 133 due to a knee injury. That would be just the latest in the long string of UFC main events crushed by injury. With only five weeks until fight night, and most of the top light heavyweights already signed for fights, the internet was lighting up with rumors on who would get the fight with Evans. In an amazing turn of events, Ortiz, just two weeks after fighting for his career, agreed to step back into the octagon to meet the guy he fought to a draw with back at UFC 73. A fight that Ortiz would have won had he not been penalized a point for holding the cage.
Dana White was a much different guy speaking to the media last week as opposed to the guy standing at that podium in Vegas. He praised Tito for stepping up, assured everyone that Ortiz’s job was not on the line and went as far to say Ortiz could earn a title shot with a win over Evans!
That shows you how things can turn on a dime in MMA. I don’t know Ortiz, so I really don’t care about his personality that has rubbed so many people within the sport the wrong way. I like watching the guy fight and I appreciate what he has meant to the sport. I also was floored by his performance by Baeder and was happy to see him get the fight with Evans.
I am also a realist though, and I question whether or not Tito can catch lightning twice. I was in the crowd at UFC 121 when Tito looked slow and out classed against Matt Hamill. The same Hamill who looked slow and out classed by “Rampage” Jackson. The win over Baeder may have stolen the show at 132, but Rashad Evans is a different level of fighter. He’s 15-1 with wins over Liddell, Griffin, Bisping and that same “Rampage” Jackson. Relax; I’m not playing the game where Rashad beat Rampage who beat Hamill who beat Ortiz so that means Rashad will beat Ortiz. I am only saying that for Tito to continue to stay on the UFC roster he’s going to have to beat tougher and tougher guys. Can he do it? Who knows, I thought he had no shot against Baeder and I think he has no shot against Evans. It’s just a great story with an ending that’s yet to be determined. Either way the guy is a sure fire hall of famer who (in typical Ortiz style) has given us all a lot to talk about for the past couple of weeks. Most of the guys who introduced me to the sport have hung up the gloves and that is a drag. We don’t see the Severns or Shamrocks any more. Chuck and Randy have said good-bye too. If Dan Henderson beats Fedor next week, that will be the end of “The Last Emperor” as well. Dana White said win or lose this isn’t the end of the road for Ortiz, but I don’t want to see the guy who destroyed Guy Mezgar and so many others buried on a Facebook prelim. Love him or hate him, Ortiz was one of the pioneers of the sport and a guy that always got me and my buddies to order a PPV, I can’t believe he did it again.
I feel bad for Phil Davis, but c’mon! Hasn’t your interest in 133 taken a 180 degree turn since the change? In what other sport could that happen? The Green Bay Packers don’t get a chance to cancel a game with the Lions in order to play the Steelers. I have to be honest; I can’t tell you two other fights on the card. All I know is 133 is must see TV now to see if the old man can do it again.