January 4, 2007
by Greg Savage (firstname.lastname@example.org)
As I watched events unfold during the light heavyweight showdown between Chuck Liddell (Pictures) and Tito Ortiz (Pictures) this past Saturday night in Las Vegas, all I could think about was how much Tito had grown as a fighter over the past couple of years.
It would be easy to look at Saturday's result and just write him off as a has-been, but that would be doing Ortiz and mixed martial arts an injustice.
To me, Liddell-Ortiz II may have been the most impressive performance of Tito's career. Why, you might ask?
Well the most telling thing is the fact that he has grown an enormous heart. Now, I would have had no problem saying Tito was a Tin Man after watching his fights with Frank Shamrock (Pictures), Randy Couture (Pictures) and his first match with Liddell -- it seemed that as soon as he was put in a bad position he just threw in the towel emotionally.
Perhaps it was there all the time, buried deep down inside and he just didn't know how to tap into it, but ever since his performance against Vitor Belfort (Pictures), a fight in which he made the first inspiring comeback in his career, Ortiz has been a completely different fighter, at least in my eyes.
He turned the tide late in his bout with Belfort and finished strong to earn the come-from-behind decision. Then, this past April against Forrest Griffin (Pictures), an injured Ortiz started strong and held on to win a hard-fought decision, despite his legendary cardio failing him.
The difference between the two Liddell fights is a perfect example of the change in Ortiz from then to now. In the first fight, Tito was intimidated and went into a shell as soon as he realized he couldn't he get the takedown. This past weekend, Ortiz fought his way out of bad position after bad position, barely making it out of the first round only to comeback and win the second frame, out-striking Chuck along the way. And while he eventually fell to the obviously better fighter, Tito still showed he has come a long way over the past couple of years.
When you add in the fact that, according to people close to Ortiz, he was hospitalized for dehydration just over a week before the fight while fighting off an illness, it just makes you appreciate, even more, the dedication he has always shown to the sport.
And just to clarify, I don't think getting sick made much of a difference for Ortiz in the fight because Chuck suffered a knee injury in the final weeks of his training. So the champ had his own problems coming into the fight -- and that goes along way in explaining why he looked so sluggish.
There was also another fighter showing a side we haven't seen much of before Saturday night. Forrest Griffin (Pictures)'s outburst after his knockout loss to Keith Jardine (Pictures) was a departure from the happy-go-lucky guy fans have grown to love. And while I can't condone the behavior displayed by the TUF 1 winner, I sure can understand it.
The most disturbing thing about the whole situation is that a person made the call to interview a fighter after a devastating knockout loss only moments after he was shown distraught and in tears at the outcome.
What did they expect?
Forrest thrives on emotion and it backfired the other night. He got caught with a good shot and instead of backing out and regaining his composure he put his chin down and dove right back into the fray. The resulting knockdown and subsequent barrage of right hands he suffered were a direct consequence of his inability to throttle back in his fights.
And for those of you with short memories -- a common ailment for MMA fans -- that is the same reason everyone fell in love with the big guy. He wears his emotions on his sleeve and it backfired on him in an embarrassing way. Big deal. I am sure he will learn from the situation and be a better man for it.
News and notes from Vegas
It is looking like Tim Sylvia (Pictures) will be squaring off against Gabriel Gonzaga (Pictures) in Columbus, Ohio at UFC 68 on March 3. If he is successful the "Maine-iac" will most likely get a chance to prove he belongs near the top of the world heavyweight rankings seeing that he will then, in all probability, take on Mirko Filipovic (Pictures) sometime early this summer. That is providing "Cro Cop" can get past Eddie Sanchez in his UFC debut at UFC 67 from Las Vegas.
As it stands right now, Matt Hughes (Pictures) will make his return to the Octagon against Chris Lytle (Pictures) on the UFC 68 card as well. According to sources in both camps, Lytle has already agreed to the fight and Hughes is expected to in the coming days. Also fighting on the same bill will be rising welterweight star Jon Fitch (Pictures). He will be taking on the always-tough American Top Team product Luigi Fioravanti (Pictures).
Marcus Aurelio (Marcus Aurelio' class='LinkSilver'>Pictures), at the UFC to corner his teammate Thiago Alves (Pictures), confirmed that he will indeed be fighting on the PRIDE show scheduled for the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas on Feb. 24. Aurelio relayed the fact that he had not been informed of his opponent yet. Speculation points towards Hayato Sakurai (Pictures) but nothing has been confirmed.
After talking to UFC officials prior to Saturday night's card, it is apparent that World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC), which was recently acquired by Zuffa LLC., will not be a feeder show for its big brother. The plan is for the two entities to exist as stand-alone organizations. By buying the WEC and putting it on television, the UFC feels it has taken away at least one TV deal from any other aspiring promotions.
Some of the most noticeable differences between the WEC and the UFC will be the fact that the WEC will not be utilizing the heavyweight division. However, WEC will institute featherweight (145) and bantamweight (135) divisions. Also look for the WEC to try to distinguish itself from the UFC. In an attempt to find its own identity, WEC may implement the old ramp entrances that were scrapped a number of years back by The UFC.