UFC 121: Does Tito Ortiz Still Matter?

via twitter.com/titoortiz

Jake Rossen says no:

...Tito Ortiz (is) third on the bill for the first time in his career, as he prepares to face Matt Hamill the same night. How dramatic a drop is that? Of Ortiz's 23 UFC bouts -- virtually the entirety of his career -- 16 were main events; another three were the co-main and were bumped only due to a headlining title fight.
...
Unlike many of his contemporaries, the 35-year-old has not unraveled to the point that he has embarrassed himself in the ring. A record of 0-3-1 over the past four years? OK. But he was still competitive in fights with Lyoto Machida and Forrest Griffin. (Chuck Liddell was a bad day.) He is nowhere near the Ortiz of 2001, who possessed a particularly violent form of wrestling, but there has been enough in the reserve to keep him from being pitied.

What's keeping Ortiz off the front page now is that he was too good at his own game -- creating a persona that took the best of pro wrestling and transplanted it to a sport that was home to a bunch of generic tough guys.
...
It's an obvious gimmick, and it's no longer the exception. You can see Ortiz's influence today in guys like Dan Hardy, Chael Sonnen, Sean McCorkle and a laundry list of fighters who consider watching wrestling promos on YouTube part of training camp. It's no longer a novelty to see Ortiz insult an opponent. Compared to the guys just mentioned, he's not even particularly good at it.

If you can't stir the pot, you need results. Ortiz doesn't deliver those, either. Losing to guys like Machida and Griffin is far from shameful, but having to rationalize losses is a long way from enjoying wins. If you ignore the nothing rematches with Shamrock in 2006, Ortiz hasn't had a solid victory since beating a green Griffin in April of that year. He hasn't held the world title in seven years (or, using another unit of measurement, not since the original "Saw" film was released -- and we're now up to "Saw 7"). He says his famous mouth is shut because he respects Hamill, but isn't it really because there's nothing left to boast about?

It's hard to remember the Tito Ortiz that terrorized the UFC from January 1999 to November 2002. A period when he was first the marauding challenger who beat down top contenders like Jerry Bohlander and Guy Mezger from the Lion's Den and then gave Frank Shamrock the toughest match of his legendary championship run. Then, after Shamrock's retirement, Ortiz blossomed as champ -- utterly dominating future Pride champ Wanderlei Silva, Pancrase champ Yuki Kondo, and MMA legends like Evan Tanner, Vladimir Matyushenko and Ken Shamrock.

Those days were a long time ago and sadly much of Tito's career peak was squandered in the "dark ages" when UFC wasn't even available on PPV in most of the U.S.

Most fans today remember the fading Tito of the 2003-2006 era, a fighter who could squash an aging Ken Shamrock but struggled to split decisions against Vitor Belfort and Forrest Griffin while top dogs Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture had their way with him in the cage. 

It's kind of sad to see Tito limping along towards retirement like this, reduced to apologizing for his trash talk and fighting third on the bill, but then again, he's Tito so even when you catch him behaving in a sympathetic manner -- as in his excellent performances coaching on the Ultimate Fighter -- he quickly says or does something that alienates any shred of sympathy. 

Perhaps Matt Hamill will provide the Tito Ortiz era with a fitting end by handing out one of the beat downs that used to be Tito's trade mark. But even if Tito wins, it's hard to see him having another title run or really even mustering up a compelling, if irrelevant, feud.

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