From a guy going 0-4-1 to defeating Ryan Bader and Rashad Evans (two men who were one fight away from title shots) in a month, that would be an incredible story. One that that I found startling watching Bader and Ortiz was how much bigger Tito was than Darth. And then looking back at his fight with Evans (which I gave rounds 1 and 2 to Tito, 3 to Evans), Tito is still massively bigger. Rashad, I'm guessing, barely has to cut weight to make 205 and could probably get to 185 if he had too. Let's break down the fight real quick . . .
- Rashad hasn't fought for since May 2010. He's had to prepare for three completely different opponents without actually fighting any of them. A Muay Thai machine about his size in Shogun Rua, a gangly unorthodox powerhouse in Jones, and then a young massive wrestler, and finally a canny veteran with a great wrestling base who knows every trick in the book. And all of this while he switched camps amidst what appears to be some real bad blood. Oh, and he was injured during this time as well. Its not just that Evans might be overtrained or have ring rust . . . he could be physically exhausted.
- Other than a couple of kicks to the leg, Ortiz sustained almost no damage against Bader. But Tito originally said no to the fight because of worrying about peaking. He's 36 years old, his body has been almost rebuilt on an operating table, I don't think he can just go in and out of training as easily as younger fighters do. I think he needs to be much more careful about getting his body prepared for a fight. So while Rashad might be overly exhausted from ring rust and overtraining . . . so could Ortiz because, at 36, he probably needs some rest between camps.
- Does Rashad have the mental strength Ortiz has shown? Look, since his comeback I think he's really 2-1, not 1-2 because I maintain he beat Forrest Griffin. But still, Ortiz has been to hell and back . . . can Rashad overcome the mental anguish I'm sure he's been through with the Greg Jackson stuff and the constantly changing opponents. He was going to get a title shot, then he got hurt, then he was getting another shot, then Jones got hurt, then he wasn't hurt but Rashad was fighting Davis so Jones gets Rampage, but now Davis is hurt.
I think these two are very evenly matched. Both are good wrestlers, Rashad is a much better striker but Ortiz is bigger and stronger. With just one month to prepare, anything can happen.
I guess the answer to my question would be that Tito suddenly is a top 5 fighter again. Maybe? Or is this closer to the Chris Leben reemergence last year when he took down Aaron Simpson and Yoshihiro Akiyama? If certain things fall into place . . . like Shogun defeating Forrest Griffin . . . can you make a case for Tito Ortiz to get a title shot? Especially if Jackson were to upset Jones?
I don't know, I'm suddenly MUCH more interested in this fight card than before. If Evans takes this, he's got his title shot. If Tito Ortiz wins . . . suddenly this old, rebuilt Six Million Dollar Man could REALLY be in the mix to get the belt back he lost years ago and continues to call "his."