With all of the attention being afforded to Tito Ortiz and his last fight in the octagon, it’s easy to forget Forrest Griffin’s place in all this.
But in truth, he is the ideal opponent for Ortiz to be facing for his final fight in the sport of MMA.
Griffin has always been the opposite of Ortiz in terms of personality and fighting style, and the two men have played off each other beautifully over the years. Griffin has always been there as a fan favorite; the anti-Ortiz, so to speak.
As Ortiz steps into the cage one last time, it should be against a man who is so different than himself that no manufactured animosity is needed. Where Ortiz is loud, Griffin is quiet; where Ortiz is outspoken and cocky, Griffin is reserved and humble.
And where Ortiz is a wrestler and a ground-and-pound former champion, Griffin is a standup brawler with the heart to match.
Griffin seems as shocked as anyone when he wins, but against Ortiz in their bout at UFC 106, Griffin made it clear in the Countdown special that he didn’t want to lose to Ortiz.
Both times that Griffin has fought Ortiz we saw his desire to win shine bigger than it has against anyone else, save Stephan Bonnar. Perhaps it’s the mocking t-shirts Ortiz wears after a win, or the grave digger routine, but Griffin fights hard anytime he sees Ortiz standing across the cage from him.
And there is also something else about Griffin that makes him the perfect final opponent for Ortiz: he’s so quiet and unassuming that he almost seems harmless in a way, and that in turn brings out the tiger in Ortiz.
If Ortiz is really healthy and in good shape, he will probably be swinging for the fences every time, hoping to get that one thing that has ever evaded him in his entire MMA career: a clean knockout due to a hard strike.
Ortiz has never really been the kind of fighter who goes for submissions if the victory can be attained in a way that makes him look ferocious. Ortiz feeds off of dominating opponents and beating them down, and in his last fight, he’ll no doubt want to walk out of the octagon with his hunger for a violent victory sated.
Griffin, for his part, has a chance to make a big statement about himself and his future. Closing the book on his trilogy with Ortiz, having successfully authored two of the three chapters as victor, will do much for him, both professionally and personally.
Ortiz has spent his entire career making the black hat look as stylish and sympathetic as he could, and anytime he’s fought Griffin, that didn’t work. You can’t make a fighter as beloved as Griffin into a bad guy; you can only hope to defeat him soundly and then embrace him after.
Ortiz would love to be able to do this the third time around, but Griffin has a chance to show that he’s still far from walking off the stage himself.
At UFC 148, Griffin has the opportunity to play the role he was born to play by defeating Ortiz, firmly and decisively, then giving him a firm handshake and a pat on the back as he walks him to the door that leads “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” into history.