Tito Ortiz steps into the cage to face Rashad Evans this Saturday night at UFC 133. It's a quick turnaround as Tito fought last just over a month ago in picking up a huge victory over young Ryan Bader. Let's take a quick look back at what happened the last five times Ortiz stepped into the Octagon.
Draw - Rashad Evans - UFC 73
It's hard to believe that the first meeting between Evans and Ortiz falls on the list. The fight feels like it was ages ago. It will have been just under four years since the first meeting when they step into the Octagon on Saturday.
The first round of the bout saw Tito confidently throwing head kicks, executing a quick takedown (which Evans was able to quickly work back up from) and winning the early punching exchanges. While Rashad had started to develop his striking, the first round showed how far he was from really taking the next step of putting polish on his game.
The second frame featured the moment that defined the bout. After having received a warning for holding the fence to prevent a takedown, Ortiz grabbed the fence again and was deducted a point. He had controlled enough of the round to have won it and taken a commanding 20-18 lead but the point deduction made it a 9-9 round. Both men were visibly fatigued in the third round but a few short punches and a big takedown at the end of the round secured the 10-9 round for Evans, making the fight a 28-28 draw on all scorecards.
One can't make the argument that Ortiz "really won" the fight given that the point deduction came because of an action that prevented possible round winning actions by Evans. It was a legitimate draw but showed that Evans was still a little ways away from Ortiz's level. But this was 2007 and a different fighter than the man Tito will see on Saturday.
Loss (Decision) - Lyoto Machida - UFC 84
Ortiz was on his way out the UFC door after this fight. Things were rough between Tito and the UFC before his final contracted bout and they gave him a match-up that seemed to have the lowest possible chance of an Ortiz victory. And for the majority of the fight, that is how things played out.
Machida scored with occasional strikes in the first, using footwork and solid takedown defense before scoring his own takedown and closing the round out with a flurry from side control. Round two saw Ortiz get more reckless in his attempt to make something happen which only played into Machida's hands as he picked Tito apart for five minutes, eventually forcing Ortiz to pull guard after a failed shot to close the round.
In the final round a Machida knee to the body crumpled Ortiz but in the flurry that ensued, Tito got his legs up and nearly submitted Lyoto with a shocking triangle choke. Machida survived and took the 30-27 decision on all three scorecards.
This was a less than stellar fight for Ortiz. While many fans remember the triangle attempt that almost got him a shocking win, the true story was his inability to get takedowns while getting picked apart and eventually put on his own back in each round. It wasn't the most entertaining fight but it was truly one sided.
Loss (Split Decision) - Forrest Griffin - UFC 106
The split between Ortiz and the UFC came to an end in July of '09 and a bout was planned against Mark Coleman. An injury forced Coleman from the card and led to Griffin coming in as a replacement in what was a rematch of their UFC 59 bout.
While Ortiz won the first meeting via split decision, it was Griffin taking the split decision victory at 106. Griffin dominated the stand-up in all three rounds and while Ortiz was able to get takedowns in the first and second, it still appeared Forrest had done the bulk of the scoring. The final frame saw Ortiz take an absolute beating in the stand-up as Forrest landed at will for five straight minutes. The Bloody Elbow scorecard read 30-26 for Griffin but somehow one of the judges (Glenn Trowbridge) saw fit to give Ortiz rounds one and two.
The split decision and three takedowns by Ortiz make the fight look close on paper. But Griffin was clearly the superior fighter that November night. The beating in the third round made Ortiz look like an old, ineffective fighter. The final round saw Forrest land 41 of 114 strikes to Tito's 5 of 19 while also failing on two takedown attempts.
Ortiz continued his streak of fighting once a calendar year with this serving as his 2010 entry.
Tito looked sharp enough in the opening frame as the two men exchanged on the feet. It was actually the kicks of Ortiz that won him the first round on the Bloody Elbow scorecard. But rounds two and three saw Matt do better in the stand up and in each round score a takedown and spend significant time on top. In the third round, Hamill was able to really open up after his takedown and land a lot of elbows to fully establish the fight as his. Two judges saw the bout 29-28 and one scored it a clean 30-27 for Hamill.
Ortiz just got out Ortiz'ed in this fight. The younger, stronger Hamill worked takedowns and top control to just grind out a decision and make it five fights without a victory for the former champion.
Win (Submission) - Ryan Bader - UFC 132
Desperate for a win, facing a definite cut should he lose and as heavy as a +525 underdog at bell time, Ortiz came through. Both men were hesitant in the opening moments of the round before Ortiz stunned and dropped Bader with a punch before locking in a guillotine and forcing the submission.
The ending was shocking and out of nowhere. For the first time since fall of 2006, Tito Ortiz stood in the center of the Octagon and had his hand raised.
What would have made the perfect Hollywood ending to the career only served to make Ortiz an acceptable replacement on short notice when Phil Davis was forced off the UFC 133 card with an injury and Lyoto Machida demanded "Anderson Silva money" to step in.
Now, having saved the day by filling the main event role..will the next chapter in the Tito Ortiz story be another shot at the title or the return of the calls for his release and retirement?