The event has been riddled with injuries, originally intending to feature Jon Jones, Jose Aldo, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Rich Franklin, Riki Fukuda, Vladimir Matyushenko and obviously Phil Davis. It still contains some interesting match-ups.
However, it is likely to be criticized by the media as one of the weaker UFC events in recent memory, as it features no championship fights and several fighters on the main card that are relatively unknown to the casual fan.
While injuries are always unfortunate, occasionally they make for more interesting match-ups.
That certainly seems to be the case with UFC 133.
Let’s take a look at the main card, shall we?
The first fight scheduled for the main card is a very interesting bout between highly-touted prospect Rory MacDonald (11-1) and veteran Mike Pyle (21-7-1).
Since losing by TKO to the animal that is Jake Ellenberger, Mike “Quicksand” Pyle has put together three straight wins over Jesse Lennox, John Hathaway and Ricardo Almeida.
While Rory MacDonald is coming off an extremely dominant win over Nate Diaz, his previous fight was the sole loss of his career—a Fight of the Night performance against Carlos Condit.
However, MacDonald controlled the first two rounds of the bout, proving himself to be a top welterweight in the process.
While Pyle will likely have the grappling advantage as well as additional experience, MacDonald’s superior striking and wrestling will allow him to dictate where the fight goes.
MacDonald by decision.
Both looking to rebound from losses, heavy-handed strikers Jorge Rivera (19-8) and Alessio Sakara (15-8) will put on a middleweight bout for the second fight on the main card.
Jorge Rivera put together three wins against Nissen Osterneck, Rob Kimmons and Nate Quarry before losing a somewhat controversial bout with Michael Bisping due to a blatant illegal knee.
Alessio Sakara is very similar to Rivera in both fighting style and record.
After three consecutive wins over Joe Vadepo, Thales Leites and James Irvin, Sakara was controlled and out-grappled by rising prospect Chris Weidman.
Both fighters rarely go to the ground, and each has a majority of their wins by knockout.
This is actually a rather difficult fight to predict due to the explosive style of both of them. To quote Gabriel Gonzaga, “Big guys, small gloves; somebody’s gonna fall.”
It’s likely that someone will get caught and go down.
I think Rivera has the slight edge in power as well as the better chin, so I’ll take him by knockout.
Dennis Hallman (43-13-2, 1 NC) and Brian Ebersole (47-14-1, 1 NC) are both true veteran mixed martial artists, and each have accumulated over 60 professional bouts.
Both are coming off of impressive performances.
Hallman is coming off of back-to-back wins over Ben Saunders and Karo Parisyan. The latter was a fight he managed to finish in just 107 seconds.
He holds two wins over Matt Hughes and has faced the likes of Jens Pulver, Denis Kang, Jorge Rivera and Frank Trigg.
Ebersole, despite having been around for so long, made his UFC debut back in February as a huge underdog and late replacement against Chris Lytle.
Ebersole dominated Lytle in the Fight of the Night, utilizing unorthodox striking to frequently drop his opponent and take home a unanimous decision. Ebersole is currently on an eight-fight winning streak and has won 12 of his last 13 (his only loss coming to Top-10 middleweight Hector Lombard).
While Hallman has 38 wins by submission, Ebersole is a former Division I Wrestler that I suspect will be able to keep the fight standing and use his strange striking (perhaps even some of those cartwheel kicks) to take another unanimous decision.
Stepping up to the co-main event with the absence of Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Rich Franklin is Vitor Belfort and Yoshihiro Akiyama.
Akiyama (13-3, 2 NC) was signed as an exciting prospect and decorated Judoka, but has never looked impressive in the UFC.
He’s extremely popular in Japan and may be useful to the organization if they plan to put on an event there, but in his last three fights, he’s performed poorly.
Akiyama technically won a split decision over Alan Belcher, but it was one of those horrid, Leonard-Garcia-type decisions where he was clearly dominated for three rounds.
After that, he lost by submission to Chris Leben and was again dominated by Michael Bisping. Another loss here could result in his release from the organization.
Vitor Belfort (19-9), on the other hand, was on quite a roll until he was knocked out by middleweight champ Anderson Silva, putting together five straight wins including knockouts of Terry Martin, Matt Lindland and Rich Franklin.
While Akiyama’s biggest asset is his Judo, Belfort is also a competent Judoka, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner and striker.
Akiyama’s bout with Michael Bisping showed his inability to stand well with a technical striker, frequently resorting to throwing telegraphed bombs.
I suspect Belfort will have an easy time controlling the fight on the feet and has the capability to either knock out “Sexyama” or submit him on the ground.
Still, I’ll take Belfort by knockout.
On to the main event.
It was originally scheduled to be Rashad Evans vs. Phil Davis before Davis suffered a knee injury. Then Lyoto Machida was offered the fight, but negotiations fell through when he asked for “Anderson Silva money.”
Now Tito Ortiz steps in, who, by the way, makes $450,000 a fight anyway.
Rashad Evans (15-1-1) and Tito Ortiz (16-8-1) have fought before, back at UFC 73. Their bout ended in a draw after Ortiz was penalized a point for holding onto the cage when Evans attempted a take-down.
Since that bout, Evans has gone 5-1, obtaining the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship in the process.
Ortiz, on the other hand, lost his next three fights before finally rebounding with a win against Ryan Bader at UFC 132.
Both fighters have relied heavily on their wrestling base, but shown by Ortiz’s struggles with Matt Hamill, his wrestling isn’t what it used to be.
It’s also difficult to see Evans getting caught the way Bader did, as he is an extremely fast and competent striker, knocking out the likes of Jason Lambert and Chuck Liddell on the feet.
Despite the losses, Ortiz has maintained a high level of competition, fighting four former champions in a row—Chuck Liddell, Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida and Forrest Griffin.
Still, there’s nothing I see that Ortiz can do to Evans in this bout.
Evans has the edge in striking and grappling.
Ortiz is hard to finish, so this will likely be a unanimous decision win for “Suga” Rashad Evans.