The UFC 133 main event was only finalized a few short weeks ago when Tito Ortiz decided to step in on short notice to face Rashad Evans as Phil Davis pulled out of the fight with an injury. Ortiz had little time to enjoy his first win in five years and will be facing his second top ten light heavyweight opponent in just over a month when he steps inside the octagon on Saturday night to face Evans for the second time.
I’m going to do this preview a little different than usual in that this fight is different than normal. I remember the talk going into the first fight between these two and I was confident that Evans had the tools to beat Ortiz. It was just a matter of having confidence in his abilities. It was evident that Evans was consumed in the moment as he was tentative to engage with Ortiz during the first round. However, as the fight progressed you could see Evan’s confidence grow and little and he started to take the fight to Ortiz in the third and final round of that fight.
That was over 4 years ago. Ortiz has endured two major surgeries on his neck and back, and he’s four years older. Evans has grown tremendously as a fighter, he’s in his prime, and he has a general idea of what to expect from Ortiz this go around. The only major concern for Evans is the year and a half long layoff. I’ve always said I’m a firm believer in cage rust so it’ll be interesting to see how long it takes Evan’s to get comfortable in the cage on Saturday night.
When it comes to skills between these two fighters Evans clearly has the edge now. Ortiz will not enjoy a huge experience factor. Evans will be the quicker fighter with the edge in cardio and has the edge in knockout power. Evans has appeared to put on some muscle mass in his time away from the cage, so he should be able to handle Ortiz’s size better this go around not that he had a difficult time in the first fight. The only advantage Ortiz has in my opinion is his grappling ability. I said that that part of his game was underrated when I previewed his fight with Bader and he won that fight via submission. Also, he almost caught Evans in a guillotine in their first encounter.
I think Evans will fight this fight similar to the way he bested Thiago Silva. I think he’ll keep the pressure on Tito with his quickness and use strikes to set up his takedowns. I think he’ll give Ortiz a steady diet of that which will eventually wear Ortiz down. Ortiz’s camp swears that he’ll have no problem going all three rounds, but that hasn’t been the case with Ortiz lately. He gassed badly against Forrest Griffin and did the same against Matt Hamill. Evans is capable of fighting at a higher pace those both of those fighters. We also have to take into account that Ortiz just fought just over a month ago and that could work for him or against him. I think it’ll be the latter. Ortiz has had a history of getting injured during his training camps so there’s a good chance he’ll come into this fight at less than 100% since he has basically been training for the past 8-10 weeks straight.
It would be a great Story if Ortiz were able to pull off another upset win, but I just don’t see it in the cards. If he couldn’t best a very green Rashad Evans at UFC 73, I just don’t see how he could realistically beat a better version now after all that Ortiz has gone through since that fight.
I think Evans wins a dominant decision against Ortiz setting up a showdown with either Jon Jones or a re-match with Rampage Jackson later this year.