I’ve read and heard a variety of opinions since Forrest Griffin defeated Tito Ortiz via split-decision at UFC 106.
The majority of people have come to one conclusion: Tito Ortiz is done as a top light heavyweight. I’m not saying that I necessarily disagree with this opinion, but to base it off of Saturday’s fight alone is ridiculous.
Ortiz went three rounds with one of the Top Five light heavyweights of the UFC. On my scorecard, he won the second round, and came close to winning the first two rounds. He was picked apart by Griffin in the third and lost the split-decision.
Sure, there were many things to not like about his performance. Despite training with boxing guru Freddie Roach, Ortiz’s striking looked slow and pedestrian. He was completely gassed in the third round. His footwork looked slow and sloppy. However, some of the things being said remind me of what was said about Mauricio “Shogun” Rua after his decision win over Mark Coleman at UFC 93.
Sure, Shogun was much younger than the 34-year-old Ortiz. However, he was also coming off a major injury (knee) and looked completely gassed by the second round. He couldn’t finish off the 44-year-old Mark Coleman, who was even more tired.
It was a tough fight to watch, and it was hard to believe that was the same “Shogun” who had dominated PRIDE just a few years earlier. If you read many articles after that fight, “Shogun” was done, finished, couldn’t compete in the UFC. The injuries had taken their toll on him and he wasn’t the same fighter anymore.
Fast-forward nine months later and watch Rua go five rounds with one of the most dangerous light heavyweights in the world, UFC champion Lyoto Machida. He suddenly looked like his old self. He took Machida the distance, and very easily could have gotten the decision over him as well. Suddenly, those who said Rua was done look silly and very premature.
Ortiz was coming off an 18-month layoff and a major back surgery. Still, he took the former UFC light heavyweight champion the distance. His takedowns and ground-and-pound looked similar to the Ortiz of old.
He was certainly slower, lacked a little explosiveness, and didn’t have the cardio that he used to have, but given all the factors that were going against him, I was impressed by his performance.
I’m not saying that Ortiz will have a Rua-like rebirth. The odds are certainly against it. He’s older and has a much different and narrower skill-set than Rua. However, to completely write him off as a has-been is a bit premature in my opinion.
Can Ortiz compete with Machida, Rua, or Nogueira right now? Probably not.
Can he reclaim a spot in the Top 10 in the light heavyweight division? I think he can.
Let’s give him a little more time to get his cardio back up to where it normally is, let him get some of the cage rust shaken off, and then let’s evaluate him. Otherwise, we may look back at what is being written and said about him right now and laugh at the stupidity.