Bellator 120: 3 Fights for Tito Ortiz to Take Next
Former UFC light heavyweight champ Tito Ortiz celebrated victory for just the second time since 2006 on Saturday at Bellator 120, the promotion's inaugural pay-per-view event.
The 39-year-old Ortiz, one of 10 fighters who have been inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame, won his promotional debut by making quick work of Bellator MMA middleweight champ Alexander Shlemenko.
Ortiz scored a takedown midway through the opening round before cinching up an arm-triangle choke that rendered the visibly smaller Shlemenko unconscious.
With three fights left on his Bellator MMA contract, Ortiz will surely hunt for bigger game in his next bout.
Since a fight with light heavyweight champ Emanuel Newton probably isn't an option just yet, here are three fights for "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" to entertain next.
Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal
Despite losing two of his last three bouts, including a controversial loss to Quinton "Rampage" Jackson on Saturday, Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal still remains a viable title contender at 205 pounds.
He hasn't looked himself lately, losing a unanimous decision in his rematch with Emanuel Newton at Bellator 106 last November before narrowly outlasting Mikhail Zayats at Bellator 110 in February.
Regardless, the 33-year-old possesses top-flight wrestling chops, heavy hands and a sturdy chin. If he can use those tools to best a legend like Ortiz, he can thrust himself back into title contention.
Lawal has underachieved as of late, but the former Oklahoma State University wrestler can regain his footing with a win over The Huntington Beach Bad Boy in late 2014.
After getting knocked out by Rampage at Bellator 108 last November, Joey Beltran bounced back with a submission win over former UFC light heavyweight staple Vladimir Matyushenko at Bellator 116 in April.
Beltran, a 10-fight veteran of the UFC, has amassed a 2-3-1 record since dropping from heavyweight to light heavyweight.
Granted, a 205-pounder with more momentum, like Attila Vegh, would offer Ortiz more of a test. But if Ortiz wants to square off with an entertaining fighter whom he'd be a favorite against, Beltran represents the ideal candidate.
In his 15 wins, he has scored 11 knockouts and two submissions. He also only went the distance nine times in 26 bouts.
Quinton "Rampage" Jackson
Jackson represents the most obvious option on this list, and that's not just because he and Ortiz were tabbed to fight last November before The Huntington Beach Bad Boy suffered an injury and withdrew from the bout.
Bellator MMA's only two former UFC champs, Jackson and Ortiz are former training partners who coexisted in the UFC's cutthroat 205-pound division from 2007 to 2012 without crossing paths in the Octagon.
Also, Ortiz holds wins over three men who beat Jackson—Wanderlei Silva, Ryan Bader and Forrest Griffin, and Jackson owns victories over three men who beat Ortiz—Lyoto Machida, Matt Hamill and Chuck Liddell.
Although it seems like a fight that's destined to materialize, Rampage may not welcome the idea, especially since he's 3-0 in Bellator MMA since signing last year.
At 35 years old, Jackson has little time remaining in his career to become a champ again, and if Bellator MMA offers him a title fight with Emanuel Newton, then Ortiz will have to wait.