I respect what Tito Ortiz has done for mixed martial arts. He is a former champion who helped build the foundation for the mainstream success of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
But it is 2011 and the sport has evolved. It is a sport that greatly rewards those who both win and entertain during their fights.
Tito Ortiz has not done either consistently for more than eight years.
Long gone are the days of a championship-caliber Tito taking opponents down at will and destroying them with brutal ground and pound. Years have past since the epic must-see fights with Chuck Liddell.
What is left is a 36-year-old fighter whose sport has evolved past him.
Tito Ortiz is a great wrestler, but is below average in nearly all other aspects of MMA. His stand-up is plodding and predictable. His guard is unimpressive. His take-downs are not nearly what they once were.
In the last eight years, Tito Ortiz has amassed a record of 7-6-1. Three of his seven wins were against an aging Ken Shamrock. His split decision win over Forrest Griffin was a loss in many people’s eyes.
In his last six fights, he has amassed a 1-4-1 record.
That begs the question, how can he be one fight from possible title contention?
Tito Ortiz can promote a fight like no one else. Love him or hate him, most people want to see what he is going to say or do next. His mouth has kept him relevant when his body and skill set could not. The trash-talking and brashness have made him almost into a reality show: something you know does not matter, but you can’t take your eyes away.
Yet despite his draw as an entertainer, his performance in the Octagon has not been worthy of top contender status. His win over Ryan Bader was quality, but does not overshadow his less than mediocre performance in recent years .
A win over Rashad Evans on Saturday would be a solid win for Tito. But we have to keep in mind Rashad has not fought in nearly 15 months, and rust may be a factor.
Regardless of what happens when the Octagon door closes on Saturday, Tito has a lot to prove before he is deserving of a shot at the light heavyweight title.