It may have taken four years but MMA fans are finally getting three more rounds of Tito Ortiz vs. Rashad Evans. The former UFC light heavyweight champions face off once again at UFC 133. I thought it would be fun to take a look back at their first fight and how it could play into their rematch.
Evans vs. Ortiz 1 took place at UFC 73: Stacked on July 7, 2007 in Sacramento, California. Ortiz vs. Evans was a co-headliner on an event that included two UFC championship fights. At UFC 133, Ortiz and Evans will be the main-event, as Ortiz steps in on less than a month’s notice after Phil Davis pulled out of the fight. Unlike UFC 73: Stacked, UFC 133 is all about Tito Ortiz and Rashad Evans.
Rashad Evans was still wet behind the ears as a UFC fighter going into UFC 73. Evans was undefeated as a UFC fighter, winning The Ultimate Fighter Season 2 as a heavyweight. Evans ran off four wins at light heavyweight and was coming off his flashiest win ever over Sean Salmon via knockout. The hype was there but the questions about Evans’ lack of real competition were also there. Ortiz was certainly a huge step up in competition for Evans.
The UFC 73 odds going into this fight had this at more or less a pick ‘em. One line I saw had Ortiz at -130 and Evans at +100, while another blogger handicapped it more evenly with Ortiz at -120 and Evans at -110. Evans was certainly getting his respect going into the fight.
There was a bit of a grudge here going into the fight. The guys had words going into the fight. Ortiz called Evans a “nappy-headed ho” playing off of the Don Imus controversy. Ortiz said it was a joke. There was a heated blowup on a conference call leading into the fight where Evans said that Ortiz was “half the fighter he used to be” and Ortiz just went off. Well, at least some things haven’t changed four years later.
Finally, it should be pointed out that Ortiz was not at 100% for the fight. As a matter of a fact, Ortiz blew out his back in training two weeks before the fight. The injury greatly impacted Ortiz’s cardiovascular training going into the fight.
Evans is booed pretty heavy during the ring introductions. Remember, this is California and Ortiz is the “Huntingdon Beach Bad Boy.” Ironically Ortiz gets a mixed reaction. In other words, neither one of these guys is that well liked by the fans inside the Arco Arena. Remember, these guys weren’The announcers point out how much bigger Ortiz looks than Evans. I did notice that Evans looks a lot smaller here than he does today, so that makes sense.
Ortiz opens up with a head kick and shoots for the double leg takedown. Ortiz takes Evans down quickly. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think this was going to be a one-sided affair by the looks of the open. The crowd is going nuts! Evans is sitting up and trying a wall walk on the fence which Randy Couture says is great technique. Mike Goldberg says that Tito told him he is finally healthy again. Couture says that Tito over trained which is why he used to get hurt. Chants of “Tito”! Rashad walks his way up the fence and the guys are now standing up.
They break along the cage and this turns into a wild slugfest. Rashad is swinging wildly, Ortiz is looking to counter, and nobody is doing any real damage here. Both guys tie up again. Ortiz has Evans up against the cage and nails a nice elbow inside. Ortiz hits some shoulder punches and an uppercut up against the cage onto Evans. Evans looks confused. John McCarthy breaks it up. Evans lost his mouthpiece.
Both guys are back in the center of the octagon. Evans is moving wildly, Tito is stalking, but no action just yet. Tito misses an inside kick and subsequent left hook. Joe Rogan thinks that the initial takedown is causing Evans to be tentative. Ortiz hits two nice leg kicks. Evans swarms in with fists but Ortiz covers up. Ortiz goes for another takedown, Rashad blocks it, but Ortiz nails a sick knee strike to the mid section, the announcers say it hit the groin. Evans winces.
Ortiz drops down as Evans is up against the cage. Evans does a crotch lift, sits through, and reverses on Ortiz. Evans now has Ortiz’s back. Ortiz quickly escapes but is now back-to-fence. Ortiz has a cut underneath his eye. Tito re-pummels with double under hooks on Rashad and now has Evans up against the cage. Ortiz sets up a knee and then a left hand. Evans pushes the fight back to mid-octagon. Ortiz pushes him back to the cage and continues using under hooks to “stifle Rashad” as Couture says. Ortiz goes for a high single leg takedown but Evans stays on his feet. The round ends. No doubt this was Tito Ortiz’s round.
Rashad opens up with a ton of footwork and waves his hands around. Ortiz stalks him but looks a little slower at the start. Ortiz looks to strike with hands and feet but has nothing. Ortiz looks real tired whereas Evans looks faster than he did at the start of the fight. Evans goes for the takedown but Ortiz sprawls to counter. Evans quickly gets out of there before Ortiz has a chance to open up. Ortiz is continuing to stalk, looking for a slugfest, but Evans keeps moving. Rogan says that Rashad can’t find his rhythm. The announcers continue to talk about the psychological effect that the quick first round takedown is having on Evans.
Evans uses under hooks to push Ortiz up against the cage. Ortiz grabs a Muay Thai Plum and starts opening up with knee strikes. Both guys exchange elbows. Evans is looking for a takedown while Ortiz continues to clinch and strike. Referee John McCarthy warns Tito about grabbing the fence. The guys get off the fence and break into a quick slugfest once again. Evans continues to jump in, Ortiz clinches, Evans looks for a takedown, Ortiz sprawls. This happens a few times.
Tito goes in deep on a double leg takedown and has Evans up against the fence. Tito finally picks him up and takes him down. The announcers point out that Rashad was walking around at 205 last week while Ortiz was at 222 pounds. Yikes! Evans is hitting Ortiz on the sides as Ortiz continues holding on. Evans reverses and McCarthy once again warns Ortiz about holding on to the fence and yes, he is holding on to the fence, no doubt about it. Evans picks up Ortiz, McCarthy screams, “Let go of it,” and then deducts a point from Tito for holding the fence. You can’t say he wasn’t warned and you definitely can’t say he wasn’t holding on to it.
Evans and Ortiz go to the ground and Ortiz grabs an arm-in guillotine, similar to the one he used to beat Bader. Unfortunately for him, it comes with only ten seconds left in the round. Additionally, his positioning is off so it probably wouldn’t have finished Evans anyway. Ortiz rolls on top of Evans, choking from a mount as the round ends. Wow! To me, that was clearly Ortiz’s round but as we know now, that point deduction was a killer. Joe Rogan thinks that was very close to being finished. Couture points out that he has it a 9-9 round with the missing point.
It is do or die time for Rashad Evans. Funny thing is after I just wrote that, Rogan said the same thing. I’d hate to think that we think alike. Anyway, Rashad has been fairly dominated for most of the fight and really needs to come out looking for the finish. Ortiz is cut while Evans does have some swelling over his left eye. Ortiz steps right into a left hook by Evans. Couture says that even with the lost point, Ortiz is winning the fight. Couture says that Evans needs to stop dancing and do something. And THAT is Rashad Evans legacy summed up right there by Randy Couture.
The guys are down on the ground again with Evans’ back against the fence. Couture thinks that Evans is over trained. The announcers are talking as if this is a clear Ortiz win at this point. Ortiz looks real tired, which is understandable after you learn about the back injury. Ortiz mounts him for about a second as Evans stands up out of it. Ortiz has Evans’ head and is opening up with some knees. The guys continue wrestling along the fence and the announcers continue pointing out that Rashad needs to make something happen. McCarthy breaks them up on the fence which I think is ridiculous because Ortiz was nailing him with shoulder shrugs and working.
Ortiz and Evans are now brought to the center of the octagon to restart. Evans continues to dance and tries to open up but Ortiz blocks. Ortiz looks extremely sluggish on his feet. With 1:15 to go, Randy Couture says that this could be a draw unless Evans opens up. This is ridiculous! Ortiz is real slow here but Evans just continues dancing around and moving away. He is fighting scared. This is what absolutely annoys me about Evans to no end. Even when he is losing, he’ll still dance around and refuses to engage.
Finally! We are under a minute and the guys are opening up on their feet. This is a terrible move by Ortiz. He is winning the fight and is continuing to stand. Well then again he was doing the right thing by working the fence and yet McCarthy broke them up anyway. Evans nails some good shots here and Ortiz is wobbly. Ortiz has had enough and finally shoots the takedown. Evans sprawls. Ortiz continues to tie up Evans here along the fence. Evans finally gets the takedown with 10 seconds to go. He opens up a few elbows but not the flurry you’d expect from someone losing the fight.
Okay a few things here about this fight. That point of course killed it but he really was holding the fence. If there was any call I had a problem with it was McCarthy breaking them up in the third round when Tito was doing damage. This fight was a lot like the Lyoto Machida vs. Tito Ortiz fight except Ortiz couldn’t catch Machida. Evans looked like he had a game plan and stuck to it, even when losing which aggravated me to no end. Ortiz was also much more aggressive throughout the fight while Evans was just looking to move a lot and stick as little as possible. It wasn’t a great fight, but it wasn’t as bad as some people remember it to be either.
I think a huge difference here could be the size. Evans looks a lot heavier now than he did back at UFC 73. Ortiz probably had about a 15-20 pound advantage in this fight. I think that will be much more leveled at UFC 133 which would make those takedowns a lot harder to come by for Ortiz. On the other hand, Evans may be over trained for this one and that could give Ortiz a slight advantage deeper in the fight. Remember, Ortiz was injured going into this fight. Maybe with less time to prepare, Ortiz doesn’t fall into the trap of over training and really does come in at 100%?
Either way this rematch is long overdue. Quite frankly it is ridiculous to think that we had to wait four years for it, but it is here. I’d love to see Ortiz get the win because he certainly should have gotten it at UFC 73, but if I had to go out on a limb I’d go with Evans via decision.
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