The wait is over, fans you can stop holding your breath, Tito Ortiz will finally get his rematch against Rashad Evans. What? You weren’t all that excited to see a rematch? Well unfortunately that’s what we’re going to get. After a long, exhausting series of opponent changes Rashad Evans has another opponent for his UFC 133 headlining bout and it is Tito Ortiz.
For fans who have been following the sport for a long time, you would know that these two initially fought to a Unanimous Draw in July of 2007, way back at UFC 73, a full 60 UFC Pay Per Views ago. During the fight, Ortiz was actually deducted a costly point in the second round for grabbing the fence of the cage multiple times while Rashad was trying for a takedown.
Rashad will be returning to the cage for the first time in nearly 18 months. His last fight was a Unanimous Decision victory over his rival Quinton “Rampage” Jackson way back in May 2010. Rashad was then set to challenge Mauricio “Shogun” Rua for the Light Heavyweight title, but a knee injury to Rua scrapped those plans and Rashad decided to wait for his shot. However, when it came time to fight again, the injury bug bit again, this time forcing Rashad out of the bout with a knee injury of his own.
[adinserter block=”1″]Ortiz will be stepping back into the Octagon with a little over three weeks notice after an impressive showing that saved him his employment with the UFC, against Ryan “Darth” Bader at UFC 132. Initial reports were that Ortiz turned down the fight against Evans, claiming on Twitter “I have a life and things to take care of. The fight game is about making the right choices of my career….” However, after an apparent bout with Lyoto Machida fell by the wayside, Ortiz called back Dana White and asked about the fight. After consulting with his Team Punishment teammates and coaches, Ortiz decided to step in and save the UFC.
It didn’t take long for bookmakers to open a line on this fight. In fact, many online sports books had a line for the Rashad Evans vs. Lyoto Machida fight, before it was even official. However, that line has since been pulled and a new one has appeared in its place. Rashad has opened as a very large favorite over the aging Huntington Beach Bad Boy. Rashad opens as a -450 favorite in the fight. A gambler backing Evans would have to wager $450 to win $100. The money line of -450 means the books are giving Evans an 81.81% chance of winning the fight. Conversely, Ortiz is a +300 underdog, meaning Ortiz supporters will win $300 for every $100 wagered. The +300 money line gives Ortiz a 25% chance of winning this fight. Again, because of the inherent “House Advantage” in sports betting, this doesn’t add up to 100%.
For those of you who are interested in past fights or nostalgia, when the two first met in July 2007, the betting line closed at -110 Ortiz / +125 Evans. That’s right, the man who was favored in the first bout, is now a 3-1 underdog years later. Since that bout in July 2007, Rashad Evans has gone 5-1, including winning the UFC Light Heavyweight Title, while Ortiz has gone 1-3, with the only victory coming on July 2 when he stunned the world, and Ryan Bader with a Submission victory.
I’m admittedly not a very big fan of either of these guys, but I will do my best to be unbiased and give some honest analysis of how I think this fight is going to go down. But first, let’s take a look at the two fighters.
Rashad Evans is a 31-year-old fighter from Niagara Falls, New York. Rashad stands 5’11” tall and has fought most of his career in the Light Heavyweight division after a stint on the second season of the Ultimate Fighter, where Rashad won the Heavyweight division of the show. During his run he weighed around 225 pounds, he has become noticeably slimmer and more athletic since his drop to Light Heavyweight. Evans has a 75-inch reach and has begun to put that reach to good use. Originally a wrestler with little stand up abilities, Rashad has developed some strong footwork and tight boxing combinations to compliment his strong wrestling background.
Evans has a very strong career record of 15-1-1. The lone loss came to Lyoto Machida in Evans’ first defense of the Light Heavyweight title. Of course the lone draw came against Ortiz in their first meeting. Of Evans’ 15 career victories, 5 have come from KO or TKO, 2 from Submissions and 8 via Decision. Despite his relatively low number of stoppage victories, he does have some highlight reel knockouts, including his head kick KO of Sean Salmon or his stunning slugfest knockout of Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell.
Key Strengths: Takedowns, Strong Footwork and Head Movement, Developing Boxing skills
Key Weaknesses: Cardio has been an issue in the past, Questionable chin against big hitters
Last 3 Fights:
WIN over Quinton Jackson via Unanimous Decision 3 Rounds 5:00 at UFC 114 – May 29, 2010
WIN over Thiago Silva via Unanimous Decision 3 Rounds 5:00 at UFC 108 – January 2, 2010
LOSS to Lyoto Machida (Light Heavyweight Championship Bout) via Knockout in Round 2 3:57 at UFC 98 – May 23, 2009
Path to Victory: For Evans I think this one is going to be about controlling the fight. Evans should be the stronger fighter in the cage and will likely be the faster one in the cage. He should look to use his improved boxing to keep Ortiz at bay, and then shoot for takedowns when Ortiz’s defense begins to waiver. In the first fight, Evans was able to earn several takedowns, but often looked lost when the fight was standing. He has considerably improved his striking since then, so he should look to show some of it off, before hitting some well-timed takedowns.
Tito Ortiz barring another blow-up with UFC President Dana White, is surely to be a UFC Hall of Famer. He was a pioneer in earning the UFC mainstream fans and success in its early days. Ortiz is now 36 years old and either on the tail end of an impressive and storied career, or on the tip of a career resurgence, depending on who you talk to. The founder of Team Punishment stands 6’2″ and has fought most of his career in the Light Heavyweight division. “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” is a wrestler with stand up that is decent, but probably below average for most fighters in the division. Ortiz prefers to use takedowns and top control to win his fights, during his prime he was also known to have some of the most vicious ground and pound in the world.
Ortiz has a career record of 16-8-1. Prior to his win a few weeks ago over Ryan Bader, Ortiz was winless in nearly 5 years. Of his 16 career victories 8 have come from TKO, 3 via Submission and 5 by way of Decision. Of his 8 career losses 2 have come via TKO or KO (both to Chuck Liddell), 2 from Submission and 4 via Decision. Ortiz has world-class cardio and is very tough to finish, he often relies on his cardio to allow him to set the pace of his fights and wear down his opponents.
Key Strengths: Cardio, Wrestling and Takedowns, Octagon Experience
Key Weaknesses: Sub-par Stand up Skills, On a physical decline after a career in MMA
Last 3 Fights:
WIN over Ryan Bader via Submission in Round 1 1:56 (Guillotine Choke) at UFC 132 – July 2, 2011
LOSS to Matt Hamill via Unanimous Decision 3 Rounds 5:00 at UFC 121 – October 23, 2010
LOSS to Forrest Griffin via Split Decision 3 Rounds 5:00 at UFC 106 – November 21, 2009
Path to Victory: For Tito to win this fight, I think he’s going to need to go back to his former self. Tito has never had the best stand up in the world, but he does have some power as he showed against Bader. He needs to use big shots to keep Rashad on the defensive and shoot constantly for takedowns. If there is one thing that wrestlers don’t like, it’s being on their backs. If Ortiz can plant Evans on his back and start raining down some heavy ground and pound, he will be able to win rounds on the scorecards and possibly work towards a stoppage victory.
Fight Prediction: I’m not going to lie, Ortiz made me eat some humble pie at UFC 132. I predicted a pretty one-sided beating by Bader, but Ortiz stunned the world and myself and pulled off the upset and saved his job with the UFC. Now, in the strange machine that is the UFC, another upset win here would put Tito “in the mix” as Dana White likes to call it
However, I think we need to discount Tito’s last win a little bit. He did show a good game plan, as that punch that rocked Bader, was clearly something that was worked on for Bader’s plodding style. However, the fight was very short and Tito didn’t do much other than blast Bader, and then sink in a Guillotine. It’s hard to say what would have happened if he got himself into some trouble during the fight.
I think the closest fight to look at is probably Matt Hamill vs. Tito Ortiz from UFC 121. Ortiz was able to come out strong, but looked to wither as the fight moved on and Hamill was able to control the last two rounds to take a Unanimous Decision victory. I think Hamill and Evans are comparable fighters, both are strong wrestlers with improving stand up games. However, I think Rashad probably has a more complete stand up game than Hamill, which means he should be able to control the fight a bit more when the two are standing.
There are two things that should be considered by betters considering backing Rashad Evans. One is cage-rust. By the time this fight happens, it will have been nearly 18 months since Evans last fought. That is an extremely long layoff, and it has hurt fighters in the past. In fact, after Evans defeated Quinton Jackson, one thing that Rampage said was that the year plus layoff hurt him, and he struggled to find his rhythm early in the fight. The second thing is that Evans has had a very public fallout with his former camp, Greg Jackson’s MMA. Without the guidance of one of MMA’s best coaches and game planners, it will be interesting to see what Evans does inside the cage. Jackson has been responsible for creating the game plans that led to several of Rashad’s octagon victories, so you cannot accurately predict how Evans will fight without him in his corner.
[adinserter block=”1″]What it comes down to for me is stand up ability and physical abilities as well. Despite returning from a long layoff, Evans should be the stronger fighter, and will likely be the better boxer. He should be able to control the range and the pace of the fight by using effective jabs and counter punching. That combined with his excellent wrestling should give him enough tools to earn a judge’s decision. Ortiz is extremely hard to finish, so this one will likely go to the scorecards. For Ortiz, I think his hope lies in the third round. Evans has been prone to gassing in the past. In both of his last two victories over Jackson and Thiago Silva, respectively, he won the first two rounds handily with strong boxing and take downs, but faded in the third round and was rocked with punches by both men. He was able to survive, but you have to be worried about that against someone with as good a gas tank as Tito has.
My prediction is that Rashad Evans will take this fight via Unanimous Decision. -450 is a bit too much juice for me though. I think the line is fairly well set, as Evans probably wins this about 80% of the time. So no bet for me, as much as I would like to get some of my money back that Ortiz cost me in his last fight.
Lee McGregor is a fan of all combat sports including both Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts. When not catching fights or watching hockey, he can be found as an Author and Editor at his own website MyManCave.ca
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