The fight between Tito Ortiz and Lyoto Machida at UFC 84 on May 24 lends itself to a fair bit of irony. Ortiz will be making his final appearance in the UFC, while Machida prepares for his coming out party.
Ortiz, who has headlined 17 out of his 20 fights with the organization, has long expressed dissatisfaction with his pay, as well as the behavior of UFC president Dana White.
Their feud goes back several years, to when White was Ortiz’s manager, but they had their biggest falling out when Dana and the Fertitta brother’s created Zuffa and bought out the UFC from its previous owners in 2001.
White went from negotiating for Tito’s pay to negotiating against him, and they were even set to have an exhibition boxing fight before it was cancelled due to Ortiz not showing up, and reportedly being unhappy with his compensation for the bout.
Ortiz helped the UFC survive throughout its “dark ages,” and holds the record for longest reigning champ (he held the light-heavyweight title for three and a half years from April 2000 until September 2003).
Ortiz has publicly stated that he will be leaving the UFC after his fight with Machida, which will be the last of his current contract. There are several rival competitors (Elite XC, Affliction, DREAM, Adrenaline, among others) who should be eager to compete for Ortiz’s services, as he brings an established name and recognition to their promotion.
Machida, on the other had, has been proverbially flying under the radar, and recently gained some popular attention after his submission victory over the “African Assassin” Sokoudjou at UFC 79. He is currently 4-0 in the UFC, and 12-0 overall, holding notable wins over Rich Franklin, BJ Penn, and Stephan Bonnar.
Machida will be looking to become a household name and inch closer to a title shot with a victory over the always controversial and talkative Ortiz on May 24.
There are currently several fighters seeking a title shot in the light-heavyweight division, and if Machida continues his undefeated run he may get a chance to fight for the belt sooner rather than later.
“The Dragon,” a nickname Machida is also known by, presents an unusual and unpredictable fighting style to his opponents. He is trained in Shotokan Karate, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Sumo, and wrestling.
He is a counter-puncher, using great footwork and accuracy to punish his opponents for any mistakes they commit.
His southpaw stance, well-roundedness, difficulty to finish, and overall unorthodox style make “The Dragon” a tough challenge for any UFC light-heayweight.
Ortiz, known for his vicious ground and pound capabilities, provides an antithetical counterpart to Machida’s more methodical style of chopping down his opponent bit by bit.
If Ortiz can repeatedly take Machida down and land some of those elbows, he could walk away with a tko or decision victory.
Machida has great sweeps off his back, and will have the edge standing up where he will look to evade Ortiz’s strikes and counter with his own.
If he can keep the fight standing, or even put Ortiz on his back with a sweep or takedown, he should earn the victory.
Ortiz’s cardio and recurrent injuries may play a factor in this fight, hindering how long he can stay on the offensive against the ever-elusive Machida. Ortiz will need to keep a strong pace for at least two rounds; otherwise Machida will pounce on him when he sees an opportunity.
If Ortiz wins, don’t look for him to receive a grand send-off or be granted a post-fight interview.
Dana White will be praying that Machida wins so that he can mock Tito as he departs for greener pastures. For his part, Machida will be looking to get some recognition amongst casual fans, and a victory over Tito would serve him well in that regard.
The career of one UFC legend will be over, but the career of another future legend may be just about to begin.
Whether you love or hate Ortiz, he always brings it, and Machida is a more than worthy final opponent for the “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” as he makes his last stand with the company he helped create and in turn molded him.
It is the beginning of the end for one, and the end of the beginning for the other.
Let the games begin.