The Wells Fargo Center holds the latest installment of MMA action when UFC 133 takes place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania this Saturday night. Opening the main card off, Rory MacDonald (11-1) is set to prove how dangerous he is when he faces submission artist “Quicksand” Mike Pyle (21-6-1). “El Conquistador” Jorge Rivera (18-8) was originally slated to trade hands with “Legionarius” Alessio Sakara (15-8) but will now face Constantinos Philippou (7-2) after the latter suffered an unfortunate ACL injury. Two of the sport’s most seasoned veterans grace the card when “Superman” Dennis Hallman (45-13-2) and “Bad Boy” Brian Ebersole (40-14-1) meet. In the co-main event, “The Phenom” Vitor Belfort (19-9) will test his lightning fast hands against the always game Judoka, “Sexyama” Yoshihiro Akiyama (14-4). The night ends with a bang when “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Tito Ortiz (16-8-1) steps in on short notice to replace “Mr. Wonderful” Phil Davis (8-0) against “Sugar” Rashad Evans (15-1-1) in the main event. Evans stood in line for the next shot at the 205lbs. belt until injuries set him back, and Ortiz appears to have a second wind in his career. In such a pivotal time for the light heavyweight division, this encore of their 2007 battle could spell out serious title implications for the victor.
At First Glance: This will not be the first time these two light heavyweight titans have met. In their 2007 battle at UFC 73, the action went back and forth though it was Ortiz who seemed to have the upper hand. Unfortunately, a point deduction for holding the cage cost “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” the win and saved Evans’ then-undefeated record. The path of each fighter since has gone through extreme polar ends. Evans has gone 5-1, completing a list of achievements that most would not achieve in their entire career including capturing the UFC light heavyweight title. Ortiz however trekked a five-year span without a single win. It was not until the pressure of losing his job was applied that Ortiz rallied his game to defeat the younger form of himself in top 205lb. competitor “Darth” Ryan Bader (12-2) with a stunning Guillotine Choke victory at UFC 132. It now has been a little over a year since Evans has stepped into the cage but a win would guarantee him the next shot at the belt. Ortiz seems to have gotten back on the horse that made him the face of the UFC back in the early 2000’s. If Ortiz can trump Evans for the first time officially, he might see himself closer to the top of the 205lbs. division ladder.
In Depth: These two both bear a relatively similar skill set that can easily put them in control or cancel the other out. In terms of stand-up, Ortiz has a relative stiffness despite the comfort he’s shown in utilizing high-risk moves such as the headkick or spinning back fist. This tension leaves Tito always on guard, ready to cock and unload a power punch, but requires more energy expenditure just to maintain it. Evans’ striking has made definite leaps and bounds since their first encounter. His loose, relaxed approach lets his strikes come off naturally with more speed and allows him to evade quickly from a counter. Each owns definite power in their hands, but what is expected to happen is the presence of their foundational art: wrestling. Ortiz will always look to seek his powerful single-leg takedown that is difficult to stop as long as he has the energy to press through. Once that single-leg is achieved, “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” continues with his signature ground-and-pound that provides enough damage where passing guard becomes merely an option. Ortiz ruled the ground game when they first met and if this had been a pure wrestling match, Ortiz could defeat Evans in possibly every exhibition. The difference for MMA is that while Tito remains Tito, the rest of the division learned to effectively combine the battle on the feet along with one on the mat. Evans has used his speed to easily close the distance against the competition. Once close enough, he can choose immediately to engage in the clinch to press into the cage or smoothly shoot in for a takedown. What hurts Evans in terms of wrestling is that lack of size and strength needed to control Ortiz. However, with constant pressure, he can push Ortiz’s cardio in having to work and push him off with each successful takedown.
Wild Card:The time and circumstances for each fighter leading into Saturday night will play heavily in regards to each combatant’s performance. Rashad Evans has been out of action for a little over a year. With a relocation of training camps due to his falling out with Greg Jackson MMA and injury sustained by him and his two previously planned opponents, “Bones” Jon Jones (13-1) and Phil Davis, ring rust and added stress is a certain possibility. As for Ortiz, that he fought roughly a month ago and won in phenomenal fashion would have him riding high on momentum as the fight draws closer. This short layoff puts him more at ease as the big lights and the crowd will be less pressuring than it normally would. If Evans cannot get into the old routine as quickly as Ortiz, the path to his once promised title shot could come with much resistance and trouble.
The Verdict: To give credit where it is due, Tito Ortiz can definitely pull the win when the opportunity is there and his motivation is at its highest. The problem is while he can unexpectedly resort to his bag of tricks to gain the upper hand, he turns to what is familiar to get the job done which in turn lends major leeway to whoever faces him. In a battle of the takedown against the takedown defense, the war left on the feet will be of speed and power where Evans’ should reign supreme. Much like how Ortiz’s saga with Forrest Griffin (18-6) stands, expect roughly the same action as the first fight only this time Evans is well-prepared to leave the cage victorious. Evans via Unanimous Decision