About a month ago, I wrote a fight preview in which I said that the UFC should have made Tito Ortiz retire after losing to Matt Hamill at UFC 121.
The last month has been pretty rough for me in terms of predictions and analysis, but Ortiz made a particularly bad fool out of me for saying that. As it turns out, he crushed Ryan Bader with an uppercut, followed it with a guillotine choke, and suddenly he not only has a recent, relevant win, he earned it against a very tough adversary. Now, just one month later, Ortiz is fighting again, and this time he’s in the main event, against Rashad Evans. Suddenly, a lot of public opinion has jumped to Ortiz’s side, with quite a few people believing that Ortiz will actually win the fight.
I generally try everything I can to avoid knee-jerk reactions. In this case, I feel it’s a knee-jerk reaction of the highest degree to suggest that Ortiz should be favored to win this fight. Yes, Ortiz just scored a great victory against a tough opponent, but let’s look at the bigger picture. This is still a man who is 1-4-1 in his last six fights. His opponent, Rashad Evans, is 5-1 in his last six fights. And Evans has been fighting a higher level of competition than Ortiz has.
Many will naturally go back to the fight between these two at UFC 73 to determine how their fight at UFC 133 might go. That was a relatively dull fight in which a lot of time was spent in the clinch. Ortiz seemed to be more effective in two out of three rounds, but because of a one-point deduction for grabbing the fence, the fight was scored a draw. If Ortiz “beat” Evans before, why couldn’t he beat Evans again?
I’m not going to completely dismiss Ortiz like I did last time, but I still think he’s a long shot. Consider the career path of each fighter. When they fought at UFC 73 in July 2007, Evans had been fighting as a professional for just over three years. Ortiz, however, was a 10-year veteran of the MMA game. While Evans was just entering the prime of his career, Ortiz had just exited his. Fast forward to 2011, and suddenly Evans is a 7-year veteran, while Ortiz has now been fighting for 14 years. Evans has moved forward and progressed as a fighter. Ortiz has gone from “old” (by MMA years) to “older.” The way I see it is this: if Ortiz was only slightly better than Evans at UFC 73, how is he going to be better than Evans four years later?
Now, there are distinct advantages in Ortiz’s favor in this fight. The most obvious is the potential for cage rust. Due to waiting for a title shot against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, and proceeding to get injured himself, Evans has now gone over 14 months between fights. If Evans has difficulty getting into the fight, it could give Ortiz the opening he needs to have a strong start and potentially win a decision.
The other advantage in favor of Ortiz is sheer physical size. Yes, Evans weighed in at 204 pounds and Ortiz weighed in at 206. There’s no way that Ortiz weighs only two pounds more tomorrow night. Ortiz is about as big as it gets in the light-heavyweight division, while Evans is one of the division’s smaller competitors. This could be a key factor in a battle of fighters who both have a wrestling base.
Still, on paper, every other advantage has to go to Evans. Evans is the better striker with more power, the better wrestler, the faster fighter, and likely has a better ground game as well. Now, if Ortiz proves to be the more successful wrestler from a practical standpoint (due to physical size), then Evans may have problems operating out of the bottom position. Regardless, Ortiz’s options are very limited.
Then there’s the mathematical edge. Evans is a career 8-1-1 against UFC-quality opponents, while Ortiz is 10-7-1, including the 1-4-1 record in his last six fights already mentioned. Evans has a massive advantage in SILVA (as seen below). Since UFC 73, according to Fight Metric, Evans has an 18-2 edge in takedowns over his opponents, while Ortiz has landed just three takedowns against his opponents’ four.
SILVA PREDICTION: RASHAD EVANS (54.74) OVER TITO ORTIZ (33.69)
Ortiz is just far too limited here. Basically, his way to beat Rashad Evans is the way he “beat” Rashad Evans the last time: by using his size to control the clinch and the takedown game. I don’t see it happening. Evans is going to be much faster, much smarter, and much better than he was last time, and I think he’ll end up winning a very lopsided decision. The thing about big upsets is that they’re big upsets for a reason: they don’t happen all the time. The Seattle Seahawks may have defeated the New Orleans Saints last year, but a week later, they found themselves down 28-3 after three quarters. Tito Ortiz may have scored a huge upset over Ryan Bader, but it’s extremely unlikely that he gets his hand raised again tomorrow night.