Posted by Jacob Lawton on August 6th, 2011
Pictured: The poster for tonight’s Light Heavyweight showdown.
Tito Ortiz is, indeed, back. Going into his fight with Ryan Bader last month everyone expected the Huntington Beach Bad Boy to be resoundingly beaten and cut from the UFC, but Mr. Ortiz had other ideas. After his stunning upset of Bader, Tito was called in on short notice to face Rashad Evans in what was, before Phil Davis withdrew, a #1 contender fight, with the winner getting the victor of Jones/Rampage. But with Tito’s imposition on the main event, does it somewhat decrease the legitimacy of Evans’ contendership? And, if Tito were to win, should he get a shot at dethroning Jon Jones?
All interesting questions, and there answers hinge on what happens tonight at the Wells Fargo Arena. Tommy Hackett (TH) joins me (JL) in taking a stab at what might go down, though you should only bet on our musings at your own peril.
Main Event Light Heavyweight Bout: Rashad Evans (17-1-1) vs. Tito Ortiz (16-8-1)
TH: I was excited about last week’s Strikeforce event which ended up so-so, so… maybe so-so bouts like this one will surprise. I’ve been high on Evans’ potential since seeing him on TUF2, and he’s developed nicely — with big wins over Quinton Jackson and Chuck Liddell adding some glamour to his record in recent years. Take away that guillotine over Ryan Bader, and Ortiz hasn’t scored a win over an elite opponent in about ten years — and those were split decisions (over Vitor Belfort and Forrest Griffin). But you can’t take that win away from him — so here we are. Look for Evans to emerge as the more skilled boxer and wrestler here, but Ortiz to show the guile to survive all three rounds. Evans doesn’t damage enough on the ground to stop Ortiz, but does enough to take a unanimous decision.
JL: This is a rematch of their fight at UFC 73 that ended in a draw after Ortiz had a point deducted for grabbing the fence. If that point hadn’t been deducted, Ortiz’s much publicised five winless years would have ended after one, Evans would have lost his undefeated record two years early and, well, who knows what the top of the 205lbs division would look like today. It is clear that Ortiz could have beaten Evans four years ago, but the question is what Father Time has done to both fighters - has Evans improved sufficiently, and Ortiz decayed suitably, for the opposite result to be true this time around? I think so, and, though, like a sentimental fool I will undoubtedly be cheering for Tito to get that ‘one last shot’ when the fight rolls round, my head tells me that Evans will grind out a decision victory.
TOTAL-MMA PICKS: EVANS, 2-0
Co-Main Event Middleweight Bout: Vitor Belfort (19-9) vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama (13-2, 2NC)
TH: Akiyama has, incredibly, earned fight of the night honors in every fight of his UFC career, and I’m expecting the same tonight. Unfortunately, he arguably lost each of those bouts — and sadly, I’m expecting the same thing to happen tonight. Watch Akiyama to keep the pace up — but end up lit up — as the larger and superior boxer in Belfort’s finds his mark with straight lefts. Belfort will eventually finish with strikes in round two.
JL: As Tommy points out, Akiyama has been very exciting for his whole UFC career thus far, but, unfortunately, he has never looked, you know, good. Certainly not on the same level as Belfort, who carried out the most brutal destruction of Rich Franklin since Anderson Silva taught him how effective a Muay-Thai clinch can be. Conversely, Akiyama only holds one controversial victory over Alan Belcher in the world’s premier MMA company, with losses coming to the likes of Chris Leben and Michael Bisping. Look for Belfort to outclass Akiyama en route to a TKO victory.
TOTAL-MMA PICKS: BELFORT, 2-0
Welterweight Bout: Dennis Hallman (50-13-2, 1NC) vs. Brian Ebersole (47-14-1, 1NC)
TH: This may be a sleeper — two guys with nearly sixty MMA wins via submission between them that I can confirm, and probably more. But former D1 wrestler Ebersole has also proved to be vulnerable to submissions, and Hallman is among the MMA world’s best on the ground. He’ll take some strikes for it, but I like Hallman to eventually position Ebersole into an armbar, round three.
JL: Certainly an entertaining fight in prospect here, if only in the fact that we’ll get to see if Ebersole has been at any more entertaining man-scaping in recent times. I like the adopted Aussie here - his victory over Chris Lytle, who I consider to be Hallman’s superior at this point in history - shows him to be a very competent fighter. Hallman was one of the best, no doubt, but that bird has flown and Ebersole will continue his massacre of the UFC old boys with a unanimous decision win.
TOTAL-MMA PICKS: SPLIT, 1-1
Middleweight Bout: Jorge Rivera (19-8) vs. Constantinous Philippou (7-2, 1NC)
TH: Rivera’s been in with some of the best and generally made a good showing, while Philippou has made it to UFC twice now due to other fighters getting injured. Nothing against the guy, but I just don’t have much to say about this pairing. Rivera will find Philippou with his long jab, and eventually drop him for a round 1 TKO.
JL: Another product of the injury bug that has well and truly bitten this card (every main card fight was effected in some way), this is one of the few that has created a pretty mediocre fight. The originally booked fight between Alessio Sakara and Rivera would have been fun, but this just seems one sided - look for Rivera to beat Philippou up en route to a stoppage on strikes in the first round.
TOTAL-MMA PICKS: RIVERA, 2-0
Weltweight Bout: Rory MacDonald (11-1) vs. Mike Pyle (27-1-1)
TH: Two very similar fighters here, but with the dominant win over Nate Diaz fresh in my memory, I think MacDonald is just a bit better all-around. Look for MacDonald to dominate takedowns and strikes here and notch a decision win.
JL: The UFC should know better than to put hot prospects in with Mike Pyle by now; the guy has already killed the momentum of John Hathaway and Dan Hornbuckle in recent years. Anyway, I think MacDonald is a cut above both those guys and with his new nickname (Aries) in tow following the absolute demolition of Nate Diaz, (featuring several huge slams) I expect the young Canadian to dominate on his way to a career making decision win.
TOTAL-MMA PICKS: MACDONALD, 2-0
Every single prelim is available to watch live tonight, with the first four on Facebook, featuring former Featherweight kingpin Mike Brown fighting Nam Phan, and the next two on Spike, where Swedish prospect Alexander Gustaffson looks to get a victory against Matt Hamill at Light Heavyweight. As always, enjoy the fights!