Tito Ortiz and Forrest Griffin are unquestionably two of the most popular fighters ever to step inside the Octagon. Even in defeat, both men are cheered wildly as if they had just won a championship.
The two will face off for the second time in their careers on Saturday night, main eventing UFC 106. Given the recent history of each man, does their fight this weekend even mean anything?
Dana White is a walking contradiction; even the most novice fan understands that. For the past couple of years he has verbally bashed Ortiz proclaiming to anyone that would listen that Ortiz was finished as a fighter. White wanted everyone to believe Ortiz would never fight in the UFC again.
After Ortiz couldn't find employment elsewhere, White decided to capitalize on Ortiz's name recognition and re-sign him to a contract with the UFC. On top of that, he sticks a fighter whom he told the world had nothing left into the main event for his return fight.
White is every bit the promoter of Vince McMahon. He will do whatever he can to make a buck. However, even White's most adamant supporters must be wondering how it makes sense to bash a man for two years and tear him down as a fighter only to give him a spot in the main event of a pay-per-view. It is simply bad business to try and get others to belief in something you have spent so much time trying to break down.
Ortiz hasn't fought since he lost to Lyoto Machida in May 2008. Worse yet, he hasn't won a fight in over three years when he knocked out Ken Shamrock in October 2006. Fighting someone the caliber of Griffin could become very dangerous for a fighter with so much ring rust.
Forrest Griffin has had his own sets of problems in recent months. White basically fed him to the wolves when he pitted him against Anderson Silva. Griffin was the perfect big-name punching bag that could boost Silva's presence in the light-heavyweight division. Griffin not only was beaten by a superior fighter, he was humiliated.
This led Griffin to test his cardio after the fight by running out of the cage prior to the results becoming official, leaving some to speculate he ran straight back to Georgia. At least he still had his book to promote and was cover boy of the UFC video game.
It has been over two years since Griffin's last convincing victory. He's lost his last two fights and although he beat Rampage Jackson for the UFC light-heavyweight title, it was a decision that many fans disagreed with.
Even a big win over Ortiz won't put him in line for a title fight with Machida. White could stick Griffin and Ortiz in another fight to break the tie of their two battles. While neither will lose much popularity with a loss, the losing fighter would become irrelevant in talks about a future title shot.
The main event speaks to a bigger problem currently afflicting the UFC: injuries. Brock Lesnar is out indefinitely and now Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira has pulled out of a fight due to injury. These may only directly affect the heavyweight division, but both fighters were slated to be in the main events of their pay-per-view which leaves White and company scrambling to throw together a replacement.
It is a problem that the UFC is adjusting to quite rapidly. Brandon Vera is a decent fighter but he is in no position to main event a pay-per-view. The same can be said for Mark Coleman when he fights Randy Couture at UFC 109. How long can White put on sub-par main events before fans being to tune out?
There are a few good storylines heading into this weekend's fights. Josh Koscheck versus Anthony Johnson has the potential to be a great fight. It will also be interesting to see how Antonio Rogerio Nogueira adapts to his first fight for the UFC.
Fans may be excited to see the return of Tito Ortiz and how Forrest Griffin will respond after two devastating losses. Unfortunately, to see the two fight each other isn't worth what the UFC is expecting fans to pay to watch it.
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