Two days before the nation’s two-hundred and fifty-third birthday, the UFC delivers yet another card of premium mixed martial arts action in its thirteenth show of the year. Highlighting the night is a bantamweight title fight between reigning champion Dominick Cruz (16-1) and the only man to hold a victory over him, “The California Kid” Urijah Faber (25-4). Leading up to the main event is a collection of the usual fan pleasers and division shakers as “The Axe Murderer” Wanderlei Silva (34-10-1) and “The Crippler” Chris Leben (21-8) meet in a good ole fashioned brawler’s battle, “Stun Gun” Dong Hyun Kim (17-4-3) squares off against “The Natural Born Killer” Carlos Condit (26-5) in a bid to see who belongs across the cage from “Rush” Georges St. Pierre (22-2), and Dennis Siver (18-7) goes to war with Matt Wiman (13-5) to see whose four-fight win streak will earn him a spot in the title discussion. Also on the card is a rebuilding fight for the TUF wrestling machine “Darth” Ryan Bader (12-1) as he looks to get back on track against the last of the Dark Age champions “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Tito Ortiz (15-8-1). Ortiz is the last of the pre-Zuffa era warriors to continue pushing for fights against the best in the division as he refuses to become another relic of the UFC’s past.
At First Glance: Ryan Bader/Tito Ortiz has the distinct look and feel of a can fight. A common practice in combat sports is to use a big-named fighter who is well past his prime to pad the record of an up-and-comer or to rebuild a proven prospect after a loss. Ortiz admittedly begged for another fight in the UFC as Dana White and the Zuffa brass pushed for his retirement and they gave him what he wanted. However the gift speaks out of both sides of the mouth as Ryan Bader is one of the most dangerous young fighters in the division and Ortiz hasn’t achieved victory in over five years. Ortiz has been set up to fail and he knows it. However, Bader must take the fight seriously because, while the old dog may only know one trick, Ortiz is an emotional and mercurial beast who will certainly find the drive to do whatever it takes to show the world he is nobody’s tomato can. He lacks the evolution, youth, and abilities to compete with Bader, but it wouldn’t be the first time that Tito Ortiz performed well outside his limits simply out of spite for those who said he couldn’t.
In Depth: The technical aspect of this fight really needs no analysis. Ryan Bader is the evolution of Tito Ortiz. “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” made his name in the last years of the pre-Zuffa Dark Ages by smashing his opponents against the cage, single-legging them to the mat, and elbowing them into submission. He remained competitive with this strategy until well into the UFC’s boom years until, around 2006, the game simply left him behind. Wrestlers learned to box, kickboxers learned to counter-wrestle, and worst of all for Ortiz, fighters learned how to use the cage to regain control on the ground, robbing him of his advantage. Enter Ryan Bader. The 28-year-old Bader is an elite level wrestler with incredible KO power who knows how to use the threat of that power to set up his signature single-leg takedowns before pounding fighters into the ground, much like Ortiz once did, only evolved for the new era. On paper, Ortiz has no chance. Injuries, evolution, and the fact that Bader is simply better at what Ortiz does all add up to the conclusion that this will be a long night for “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy”.
Wild Card: There are very few fighters as vindictive, emotional, and spiteful as Tito Ortiz. He had to beg the UFC to get this fight and no one has made any allusions to him having a prayer of winning it. To an ego driven fighter like Ortiz, being written off as a can is the most certain way to drive him to push well beyond his limits in an attempt to prove his opposition wrong. If Bader takes Ortiz lightly, there is a slim chance Ortiz will take control of the fight and once he does, he will only build momentum.
The Verdict: Ironically, Tito Ortiz is very much like long time rival “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” Ken Shamrock (28-15-2) in the fact that he will simply never quit when faced with an opponent that the world says he can’t beat. Pure ego will carry Ortiz through the fight, but much like when he had his first long awaited match with Ken Shamrock, one man will take a serious beating and be regarded as a hero for his heart and determination in the face of an obviously hopeless battle – only this time it will be Ortiz taking the beating. Bader will win, but ego alone will carry Ortiz to the judges because, much like Shamrock, he simply doesn’t know when to quit. Bader via Unanimous Decision.