On July 7th, 2007 Tito Ortiz and Rashad Evans fought to a three round draw. There was a great deal of animosity between the two leading up to their bout and they nearly came to blows at a UFC event prior to their meeting in the cage.
The fight was good but failed to live up to the prefight hype. At the time, Evans was still an up and comer, who relied mainly on his speed and wrestling. Ortiz was plagued by back and a myriad of other injuries and appeared to be on the downside of his career.
In the end, the difference in the fight turned out to be a point deduction Ortiz received in the 2nd round for repeatedly grabbing the fence. The deduction would ultimately cost him the victory.
Fast-forward four years and Evans and Ortiz finally have a chance to settle the score.
The stakes in their rematch are very high. A victory for Evans guarantees him the next shot at the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship. He was scheduled to fight for the title in March but had to pull out with a knee injury.
Tito Ortiz is on cloud nine after defeating Ryan Bader earlier this month, a win over Evans would add to his already Hall of Fame worthy resume. In addition, it puts him right back in the thick of the title hunt in the UFC’s stacked Light Heavyweight division.
The general consensus is that Evans should win the fight handily. I disagree.
Here are five reasons Tito Ortiz will shock the world and defeat Rashad Evans on August 6th.
In the record books it’s officially scored as a draw but Tito Ortiz was the winner at UFC 73.
Ortiz opened the fight with a huge head kick and followed up by scoring a big takedown that put Evans on his butt, ten seconds into the fight. Ortiz was able to control Evans for much of the 1st round and keep him pressed against the cage.
In the 2nd round Evans and Ortiz traded shots for the first half of the round with neither man establishing an effective offensive attack. With about a minute left in the round Tito secured another takedown, this time Rashad was able to shake loose and reverse him. With about thirty seconds left in the round, Tito would lose a point on a questionable call for holding the cage. The deduction was almost inconsequential as Ortiz was able to apply and nearly finish the fight with a guillotine choke. Luckily, for Evans the round ended before Tito could finish him off.
In the final five minutes, Tito again scored with a takedown and controlled the early part of the round. Evans was able to get back to his feet and the two men traded shots. Evans finished the round strong with a big takedown and some elbows.
When it was over, all three judges scored the fight a unanimous draw, 28-28. Take away the point deduction and Tito pulls out the decision.
In the first fight Tito was able to overpower Rashad and control the action by backing him into the fence and working for takedowns. Tito clearly out wrestled Rashad and will most likely look to do so again.
In the four years since their last fight, Rashad has developed into a more complete and well rounded fighter. Still, his greatest advantage over most opponents is his wrestling. In his last two octagon appearances, Evans beat both Thiago Silva and Quinton Jackson by taking and holding them down for majority of the fight.
Against Ortiz, Evans will not be able to apply that strategy. Tito is the naturally bigger man and a good wrestler as well.
Even if Evans is able to gain the edge in wrestling, his biggest concern will come on the ground. The submission game of Tito Ortiz is largely overlooked because he doesn’t often use it to earn victories. However in his last fight, Ortiz showed his submission prowess by choking out Ryan Bader. He was also dangerously close to finishing Lyoto Machida with a triangle choke.
Ortiz is riding high after his last fight and would love to rack up back to back victories via submission.
Standup is the area where Tito would seem to be at the greatest disadvantage. Rashad has quicker hands and greater one punch knockout ability. He also has a suspect chin.
Rashad was knocked out cold in his only career loss to Lyoto Machida and he’s been hurt badly by strikes in other fights as well. He was getting the worst of a standup war with Forrest Griffin before finishing that fight and he had to hang on for dear life to avoid being stopped in his last two outings against Thiago Silva and Rampage Jackson.
Ortiz has never been known as a big puncher but if he can land something significant, he has a good chance of earning a stoppage in this fight.
Fighters’ camps and coaches are often overlooked but are vital to their success in the cage.
For the past few years Rashad’s home base has been Greg Jackson’s camp in New Mexico. The camp is home to MMA stars; Georges St. Pierre, Keith Jardine, Shane Carwin, Nate Marquadt and Jon Jones, all of whom have helped Evans train for fights in the past. Earlier this year, Evans decided to part ways with Team Jackson after a dispute with teammate Jon Jones.
Evans formed his own team with Imperial Athletics in Florida. He took his wrestling coach, Mike van Arsdale with him. The change of location and training partners might prove to be a good move. It could also prove to be the worst career decision Evans has ever made.
Greg Jackson is arguably the most sought after coach in MMA and has the richest roster of talent training at his facility. He is also a guru in developing fight plans and exposing opponents’ weaknesses.
Evans will no doubt miss that calming voice in his corner on August 6th.
There is no greater advantage for Ortiz than Evans' long layoff. When Evans enters the cage at UFC 133, it will have been over 14 months since his last fight. He was already staring at the longest inactive period of his career had he fought for the title in March as originally scheduled. After a knee injury forced him off of that card, Evans was forced to play the waiting game while the UFC found him a new opponent and fight date.
Adding to the concern of inactivity is the status of Evans' injured knee. He says it is fully healed, but there will be no way to know for sure until it’s tested in live action. No matter what he might say leading up to the fight, Evans will clearly have some ring rust to shake off.
Ortiz would be best served to start fast, push the pace and test Evans' conditioning. He is still in peak condition and took no damage in his last fight against Ryan Bader. This might be the best opportunity he has to beat a top contender and reclaim some of his past glory. A victory over Evans could launch one final run at the title for the “Huntington Beach Bad Boy.”