UFC 133 Fight Card Preview: Can Tito Ortiz Muster an Encore?
The betting lines for UFC 133: Evans vs. Ortiz II have Rashad Evans coming in at a -400 favorite, while Tito Ortiz sits at +350. Given their track record since their first fight back at UFC 73, that seems reasonable.
There aren't very many that believe Tito Ortiz can put together back-to-back wins—something he hasn't done since beating an aging Ken Shamrock twice in a row in 2006.
It's generally agreed that their first bout has almost no bearing on the outcome of this one, so is there any reason to believe that Tito can muster an encore and derail Rashad Evans' hopes of finally getting a title shot? Let's break down different areas of the fight and see who has the advantage in each one.
While Tito Ortiz knocked down Ryan Bader with right hand before finishing him off with a guillotine, Ortiz isn't a fighter primarily known for his hands. He's never had a clean knockout of anyone in his MMA career, except for Evan Tanner, which was with a slam.
Whenever Tito has gone up against a good striker in the past few years, he's looked lackluster. See Chuck Liddell, Lyoto Machida, and Forrest Griffin.
On the other hand, while Rashad wasn't known for his hands earlier in his career, people started taking notice when he knocked out Sean Salmon with a head kick and UFC Fight Night 8. Then, Evans shocked the world, knocking out Chuck Liddell cold at UFC 88.
When it comes to striking, Evans has the edge in both the power and speed departments.
Here is one area where "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" likely has the edge. Unfortunately, it's the least significant.
Tito Ortiz nearly had a triangle against Lyoto Machida late in the third round and he's coming off of a guillotine choke submission in his last fight.
Still, neither fighter has a history of finishing many fights by submission. In fact, Rashad Evans still has never even attempted a submission in the UFC, therefore, this goes to Tito by default.
This is what the fight will come down to, most likely. Both fighters made their careers utilizing their wrestling.
The last display of Tito Ortiz's wrestling was at UFC 121 against Matt Hamill. While Hamill is a competent wrestler, he's certainly not the best the UFC has to offer. Still, Ortiz was easily outwrestled that night, losing a unanimous decision.
Even at this stage in his career, Tito in someone's guard is still dangerous. He's one of the best at doing damage from that position, not even finding it necessary to pass to finish fights. See Forrest Griffin's face following UFC 106.
It's important to note, however, that Rashad Evans had Forrest in that same position in their UFC 92 Light Heavyweight Championship bout and was able to finish the fight.
In his last two fights, both very similar bouts against heavy-handed strikers in Thiago Silva and Quinton Jackson, Evans was able to fairly easily—besides a scare in the third round of each bout—wrestle his way to decision victories.
Again, Evans has the edge here. Evans has much superior wrestling to Matt Hamill, who was able to control Tito. Evans and Hamill have a common opponent in Rampage. Evans put Rampage on his back every round while Hamill never even got close to securing a leg.
If Evans wants to stand, this fight will remain standing, and if he wants Tito on his back, Tito will be on his back.
Tito Ortiz has had several 25 minutes bouts over the course of his career, while Rashad Evans, despite two championship fights, has never hit those championship rounds.
Still Tito, despite having great conditioning throughout his career, has looked gassed in the third round of his last few fights. The last round of his bout with Forrest Griffin was particularly embarrassing, getting outstruck 41-5.
Rashad is coming off of quite a long layoff, which would be a concern if he didn't seem to be in the best shape of his career. In recent videos and photos, Evans looks absolutely shredded. In addition, conditioning hasn't been much of an issue in his recent bouts.
Unfortunately for Tito, Rashad has the edge here yet again. If this fight hits the third round, Rashad will likely be the fresher fighter.
Many people are quick to point out that Tito Ortiz would have won his first bout with Rashad Evans if he wasn't deducted a point for grabbing the cage. This may be the case, but again, their first bout was four years ago and has no bearing on this bout.
After the draw, Tito went on to lose his next three fights, finally rebounding against Ryan Bader. Ortiz is largely the same fighter that he was four years ago.
On the other hand, Rashad has reinvented himself, going 5-1 since then and even winning the Light Heavyweight Championship. He also knocked out both Chuck Liddell and Forrest Griffin—two fighters that have wins over Tito.
At the time of their first meeting, Evans was still largely a prospect, while he's now become one of the top three light heavyweights in the world.
Tito, however, was unranked for years until picking up his last win. Now he is currently ranked at No. 14 by the USA Today/SB Nation Consensus Rankings.
As much as anyone likes a good comeback story, the odds are firmly against Tito Ortiz. He's coming off of a big win with a lot of momentum, but Rashad Evans is just a poor matchup for him.
Rashad has the edge in both the striking and grappling aspects and will likely be capable of dictating the pace of the fight, as well as where it takes place.
While Rashad's long layoff may be somewhat of a concern, he appears to be in great shape for this fight as well.
Tito shocked the world once by defeating Ryan Bader when everyone counted him out and it may happen again, but I wouldn't put more than five dollars on it, even at +350.