OK, I feel pretty comfortable about passing this one along, since it comes straight from the UFC. Tito Ortiz, who earlier this month scored a shocking upset of Ryan Bader at UFC 132, has stepped into the vacant slot in the main event of UFC 133 to fight Rashad Evans. Ortiz and Evans fought to a draw at UFC 73 in 2007; Ortiz would have won the decision if a point hadn’t been deducted for grabbing the fence.
In a way, this is liberating for me from a purely predictive standpoint. I had strongly stated before that Evans’s previous opponent, Phil Davis, was ready for the fight, and so even though SILVA’s pick would have been Evans, Davis would have needed to at least make it a competitive fight for my declaration to hold true. Then, when it appeared that Lyoto Machida would be Evans’s opponent, I was facing the reality of SILVA favoring Evans despite his previously losing badly to Machida at UFC 98.
With this fight, even though Ortiz arguably out-performed Evans at UFC 73, I will be dealing with no such conflicts. SILVA is going to very strongly favor Rashad Evans to win this fight, and my subjective opinion agrees with this assessment.
If Ortiz manages to score another huge upset, and beat Evans, it would represent perhaps the most improbable career turnaround in UFC history. Just a couple weeks ago, it appeared that Ortiz was on the verge of being cut from the UFC and his MMA career being effectively over. A win over Rashad Evans would have to put Tito Ortiz strongly into title contention, an idea that until today would have seemed utterly ridiculous.
Still, I don’t think Ortiz will shock the world twice in a row. Since he fought Evans in 2007, Evans has advanced further into his prime and improved as a fighter, while Ortiz has left his prime and has struggled to even get into the cage to fight, let alone win. As impressive as Ortiz’s win over Ryan Bader at UFC 132 was, it doesn’t compare to Evans’s list of recent victories, including Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Thiago Silva, Forrest Griffin, Chuck Liddell, and Michael Bisping. Evans is definitely the smart pick here.