Tito Ortiz vs. Forrest Griffin and 5 Retirement Fights We Want to See in 2012
The final years of Tito Ortiz's career haven't exactly gone as the MMA legend would have hoped. Aside from a submission win over Ryan Bader that has since been written off by many as a fluke, Ortiz hasn't won since his third fight with Ken Shamrock in October 2006.
However, Ortiz will have a chance to leave the sport on a high note at July's UFC 148, when he will meet Forrest Griffin in a rubber match that is expected to bring a close to the 37-year-old's career. The former champions traded split-decision victories in their first two meetings, so the third bout between Ortiz and Griffin is expected to be another close and entertaining fight.
As MMA's first generation of great fighters continue to age, there are sure to be more fighters who join Ortiz in retirement in 2012. Here are a handful of retirement fights we'd like to see for some of the sport's great fighters before this year comes to an end.
B.J. Penn vs. Kenny Florian II
Recently, Kenny Florian received a troubling recommendation from doctors. After suffering a back injury in preparing for his return to the lightweight division, Florian was told to retire from MMA for health reasons. Months have passed, and Florian has still not officially announced his retirement from the sport, so there is reason to believe he will return for one last contest.
Meanwhile, B.J. Penn did announce his retirement from MMA following a loss to Nick Diaz this past October. However, Penn unloaded on Diaz through Twitter in January, prompting speculation that he could return to action in the near future.
Diaz has since announced his own retirement, so a return to MMA for Penn could mean a run at the lightweight title now that Frank Edgar has been dethroned from the top of the 155-pound division.
A bout between Penn and Florian later this year would give Penn the chance to make an immediate return to the lightweight title hunt and could give Florian the chance to leave the sport by avenging a loss against one of the greatest of all time.
Quinton Jackson vs. Mauricio Rua II
Quinton Jackson turned in another disappointing performance against Ryan Bader at UFC 144, and followed it up with a statement that he planned on leaving the UFC after his next appearance, which could come against Mauricio Rua.
A rematch between "Rampage" and Rua was briefly scheduled before it was announced that Jackson would need knee surgery, so the bout will now have to wait. However, the matchup does make a lot of sense if it will truly be Jackson's final appearance in the UFC.
While Jackson left the door open to competing in other promotions, there are very few, if any, intriguing opponents for the former UFC champion outside of the Octagon. The light-heavyweight division has long been considered one of the most talented weight classes in MMA, but just about all of the elite fighters in the division currently compete under the UFC banner.
If Jackson's next fight is his last in the UFC, it will also most likely be his last in MMA.
Matt Hughes vs. Matt Serra II
Both Matt Hughes and Matt Serra are walking the line between retirement and one final fight. Neither fighter is capable of making another run at the welterweight title, but they are both very respected athletes with fans who would love to see them step into the Octagon one last time.
The former rivals coached against one another on The Ultimate Fighter and met at UFC 98, where Hughes took a unanimous decision victory over Serra. While there is no longer any animosity between the fighters, Hughes and Serra are capable of putting on an exciting fight that fans will be able to remember long after their retirement.
Assuming Serra can return to 170 pounds by the end of this year, which would require him to significantly cut back on the pasta, a bout with Hughes would be a great way for both of the former champions to walk away from the sport.
Rich Franklin vs. Wanderlei Silva II
In June 2009, Rich Franklin and Wanderlei Silva engaged in an instant classic that earned both fighters a Fight of the Night bonus at UFC 99. In the three years since that bout, however, both fighters have only returned to the Octagon three times due to injuries.
Franklin has already spoken openly about his nearing retirement and has not won consecutive fights since 2008, while Silva has gone nearly six years without back-to-back victories. While both competitors are former champions and will be remembered as great fighters, it is clear that these two warriors are coming to the end of their careers.
After Franklin meets Cung Le in July, and Silva battles Vitor Belfort in June, look for these two fighters to go toe-to-toe once again in the final fight of both of their careers.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Josh Barnett III
After he refused to tap until it was too late in his most recent fight against Frank Mir, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira suffered a horrific arm injury. Some questioned whether or not the injury would lead to Nogueira's retirement, but the Brazilian is already training again and should be ready to step back into the Octagon before the end of 2012.
That being said, the end could be drawing near for the former Pride heavyweight champion, who has lost three of his past five fights and likely won't be seeing another title shot in his career. A nostalgic rubber match with Josh Barnett in 2012 could be an excellent way for Nogueira to close out his MMA career.
Barnett is currently scheduled to meet Daniel Cormier in the coming months for the final fight of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix. Whether Barnett wins or loses that bout, he has made a strong case for another shot in the UFC, an organization that disposed of him after he tested positive for steroids in March 2002.
Nogueira first met Barnett in the semifinals of the 2006 Pride Openweight Grand Prix, where the American earned a split-decision victory. Months later, in the final Pride fight in the careers of both fighters, Nogueira avenged that loss by earning a decision win of his own over Barnett.
Sean Smith is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report MMA. For the latest insight and updates on everything MMA, Follow Sean Smith on Twitter