Friday, March 9, 2007

Tito Ortiz Versus Who?

By Sean McClure

After his second, much better performance in his loss to Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz is set to return to action possibly at UFC 71. Initially, Tito was under the impression he was to face Forrest Griffin, but that has changed since we spoke back then. With that fight off the radar, another name thrown around was Babalu Sobral, but the UFC had other plans for the light heavyweight division and felt it wasn't ready for the Sobral vs. Ortiz fight just yet.

From behind the scenes, a third name surfaced that provided a slightly more intriguing scenario. Keith Jardine, who recently knocked out Forrest Griffin, seemed to be moving higher up the ladder in the 205 pound division. Forrest would have received a title shot if he won his fight with Keith, but that was not to be. Keith, on the other hand was not the recipient of Forrest's try for the light heavyweight championship, even though he defeated the #1 contender.

A rematch for Griffin against Ortiz would have made sense since they were both coming off losses, but Dana probably didn't want to risk that pay day. Both fighters needed a win to build the public interest in that fight, but I am confused at the Griffin vs. Lyoto Machida fight if that is the case. Machida is a much more dangerous test for Forrest than Jardine was and is a bad match-up for Griffin. Getting back to the point, Jardine would have been a real challenge for Tito since he has some good striking and a great chin to match his fairly solid ground game. All that being said, the Jardine rumor has also been smashed leaving a lot of people trying to make some sense out of the UFC's decision making process.

Enter Rashad Evans.

After speaking with several people today, I can tell you that many think that this will happen soon, that Rashad will face Ortiz in his next fight. Sure, Rashad said that he is not ready for a title shot, but this is the closest thing you can get to it in the light heavyweight division. I feel, as do many others that Tito would be wearing the belt if Chuck Liddell was not in that division. Truly, if Rashad can get past him then he will assure himself and his critics that he deserves a title shot at 205.

Tito would have to bring his A-game for this one because Rashad can strike and take you down, pound you out. Ortiz's highly criticized boxing skills are not as bad as hardcore fans or forum dwellers might have you think. Tito is a solid fighter, more so then when he faced Chuck Liddell the first time. Tito's takedowns are top notch and Forrest Griffin was getting smashed in his fight against the former champion until Tito gassed. Griffin aside, I see Rashad as more of a challenge for Ortiz than a Keith Jardine or Forrest had he been facing a healthy Tito. Looking at this fight, both Evans and Ortiz have similar styles making this one that could be decided by the number of takedowns and who has more heart.

I will say this, Rashad is touted to be the future of the light heavyweight division and he is a very talented competitor. I agree with that statement and a win in this high profile fight will make a very clear statement, if indeed it materializes.

MaxFighting will keep you up to date if this fight is signed.


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