“UFC 133: Evans vs. Ortiz” takes place this evening at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa. The card is headlined with rematch between former light heavyweight champions Tito Ortiz and Rashad Evans who will attempt to settle the score from a 2007 draw.
The ProMMAnow.com (www.prommanow.com) staff weighs in with their thoughts and predictions on each of the main card bouts which will air live on Pay-Per-View this evening starting at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.
Rashad Evans (20-1-1) vs. Tito Ortiz (17-8-1)
ODDS: Evans -400, Ortiz +300
RICHARD MANN: A lot of people think that without the point deduction Ortiz would have won their first bout. However, if you actually watch the fight, Ortiz uses the fence to stay on his feet and then latches on a guillotine choke that won him the very close round. Evans is a much better fighter since their last meeting, and Ortiz has not shown sufficient cardio in years. Look for Evans to dominate the rounds for a decision. Evans by decision.
KELVIN HUNT: If Ortiz couldn’t beat a green Rashad Evans four years ago I just don’t see how he beats a better Evans now and tfollowing wo major surgeries on his neck and back. Evans will be too fast and will gradually wear Ortiz down to win a decision since Ortiz is difficult to finish.
BRIAN FURBY: In case anyone has forgotten, I was the only one of the ProMMAnow.com staff members to pick Ortiz to beat Bader. Will any of the other staff members hop on the bandwagon this time? We’ll see. Regardless, even though it was ruled a draw the first time around due to Ortiz getting called for grabbing the fence, without that point deduction, Ortiz would have won. Rashad has definitely improved since that time, but Tito is also in better health than he was the first time they fought. I think it will be a close fight, but Tito will come out on top in a three-round Fight of the Night battle. Ortiz wins via split decision.
JOSH CROSS: Talk about a major opportunity for Ortiz, and if he were to win this fight it would be one of the biggest comeback stores of all time. With that being said, there are some major differences between Rashad Evans and Ryan Bader. For one, Rashad plays it safe, very safe, and I don’t see him getting into the position Bader was in when he got caught and then submitted by Ortiz. Evans will keep moving making it extremely difficult for Tito to land any major strikes. I also think Rashad will also take Tito down often, control the fight, and pull off the win. Pick: Evans via Decision.
JACK BRATCHER: This fight is not as cut and dry for me as it seems to be for others. Tito really seems reborn in a way and he has a lot of momentum right now. A win here for Ortiz would make him the comeback story of the year without a doubt. He may already deserve that title after the win over Bader, but this would definitely solidify it. Not only that, but a win for Ortiz could put him in title contention to face the winner of Jon Jones vs. Quinton Jackson. It would be a remarkable story… but there’s a 31-year-old, 5′ 11″ problem by the name of “Suga” Rashad who is fast, powerful, hungry and has been sitting on the sidelines for over a year, watching his former friend and teammate Jon Jones take his spot and win the title. As a fan I would love to see Tito win and I definitely think he is fully capable of winning this fight. However, the odds are favoring Evans here. Maybe Evans uses some of the tips Bernard Hopkins gave him the other day and puts Tito out with a couple big punches. I’m really torn here… I want to say Tito via submission — and I feel like anything could happen in this fight. How will Rashad react after being out for so long? It’s almost a toss up for me here, but my final pick: Evans via decision.
Vitor Belfort (19-9) vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama (13-3, 2 NC)
ODDS: Belfort -350, Akiyama +250
RICHARD MANN: The UFC does not seem interested in giving Akiyama a softball. If he loses here, he might find himself outside of the promotion. Akiyama has solid striking and good takedowns, but he does not have the grinding physical game that can make Belfort’s wheels come off. Look for Belfort to stay on the outside and eventually catch his opponent. Belfort by TKO.
KELVIN HUNT: Akiyama’s style plays right into the strength of Belfort. Belfort will counter Akiyama to death with strikes and finish a gassed out Akiyama via TKO.
BRIAN FURBY: Vitor is a massive favorite in this fight, and that’s probably right. After being derailed by Anderson Silva, he’s ready to show he’s still at the top of the division. Belfort wins via TKO in Round 2.
JOSH CROSS: Akiyama hasn’t really impressed me with his time in the UFC, and because of that I think Belfort will be pretty dominant in this fight. Vitor is one of the best strikers in the division and I don’t see Akiyama being able to do much to counter that. Pick: Belfort via TKO.
JACK BRATCHER: Poor Sexyama. Things just haven’t panned out for him here in the UFC. Vitor is 1-1 in his current UFC incarnation. He TKO’d Rich Franklin then got Daniel-son’d by Anderson Silva. As long as Vitor’s brain is still 75% in tact after taking that front kick that would have knocked his head into the fifth row had it not been attached to his shoulders with tough-ass Brazilian DNA, he should have little trouble dispatching Akiyama. Vitor will out-box most MMA fighters and when Akiyama stands in front of him Vitor is going to take him out probably in the first round via TKO.
Dennis Hallman (65-13-2, 1 NC) vs. Brian Ebersole (47-14-1, 1 NC)
ODDS: Hallman +100, Ebersole -130
RICHARD MANN: Ebersole picked up a big victory when he surprised Chris Lytle, but there is a reason he was a late-replacement fighter. A lot of people were shocked when the UFC signed Hallman, but he has shown that he deserves a place. He should be able to get takedowns and stay on top. That will be more than enough to take the decision here. Hallman by decision.
KELVIN HUNT: Ehh…Ebersole via decision.
BRIAN FURBY: Does this strike anyone else as a weird fight? Ebersole comes in and beats Chris Lytle by a decision and now he gets a guy that hasn’t fought in the UFC in over eight months, and it’s on the televised card? It would normally sound like they’re setting Ebersole up for an easy win, but Hallman isn’t a can. With both guys’ submission skills, it could be an extremely entertaining fight. Ebersole wins via unanimous decision.
JOSH CROSS: This should be a really interesting fight against two experienced veterans. Hallman has more submission wins than Ebersole, but Ebersole has more knockouts. I think both guys are going to be able to survive what the other guy brings to the table though. I think that Ebersole will be able to do more in the fight and that’s why I think he’ll pull off the decision win. Pick: Ebersole via Decision.
JACK BRATCHER: Did you know that in 66 pro MMA fights, Dennis Hallman has never been submitted? Did you know that in his 50 wins he has submitted 38 of them? He still holds the distinction of being the only person to submit Matt Hughes twice back in the days when Hughes was pounding the competition into little bitty specks of sawdust. Did you know Brian Ebersole has submitted 20 of his 63 pro MMA opponents? (Be sure to check out the interview with Ebersole on this week’s Afternoon Press Box) He also has nine losses due to submission though. Ebersole is the more well-rounded fighter and has 13 wins via KO compared to Hallman’s five. Ebersole has not lost since 2008, is riding a eight fight win streak and is coming off an impressive unanimous decision win over Chris Lytle at UFC 127. Ebersole should win this fight via TKO.
Jorge Rivera (18-8) vs. Costantinos Philippou (7-2, 1 NC)
ODDS: Rivera -145, Philippou +115
RICHARD MANN: Recent call ups from Ring of Combat have been almost a total disappointment. A lot of people were excited for the likes of Philippou, but they have simply not performed at the highest levels of the sport. Look for Rivera to score on the feet and in the clinch. Rivera by decision.
KELVIN HUNT: Philippou via TKO.
BRIAN FURBY: Rivera is more experienced, better skilled technically, and ready for a win after Sakara had to back out of their fight. Philippou is hungry and this is a big opportunity for him, but Rivera should overwhelm him early. Also, Rivera was a recent guest of The Cageside Beat. Never bet against guests of The Cageside Beat. Rivera wins via TKO in Round 1.
JOSH CROSS: I think Philippou’s best chance to win this fight is to take Rivera down to the ground often. Rivera is known for knocking his opponents out, but his ground game is a weak spot in my opinion. That being said, I just don’t think Philippou will have what it takes to take Rivera down and beat him. Pick: Rivera via TKO.
JACK BRATCHER: This is by far the biggest fight of Costantinos Philippou’s young pro MMA career. The Ring of Combat veteran is coming off a decision loss in his UFC debut to Nick Catone in March.Rivera was a guest on The Cageside Beat last week and you will want to listen to that interview. Furby praised Rivera for his dislike of Michael Bisping and wallowed in his own hatred of the Englishman. However, Bisping did score a victory of Rivera in his last outing (after hurting Rivera badly with an illegal knee to the face while he was grounded). Rivera has been hanging around the UFC since 2003, shortly after the Zuffa takeover. Rivera serves a gatekeeper role and he’s going to shut the gate on Philippou tonight with a TKO victory.
Rory MacDonald (11-1) vs. Mike Pyle (21-7-1)
ODDS: MacDonald -280, Pyle +210
RICHARD MANN: Pyle is a game veteran who has surprised a lot of people with his ability to stay in the UFC. However, he will be facing an uphill battle here. MacDonald will have the wrestling advantage and be the more physical fighter. Pyle will make it a fight, but he will end up on the wrong end of the decision. MacDonald by decision.
KELVIN HUNT: I think MacDonald will be able to dictate where the fight takes place and will win the exchanges on the feet. The kid will just be too dynamic for Pyle. MacDonald via decision.
BRIAN FURBY: Watching Rory MacDonald toss Nate Diaz all over the Octagon was one of the more enjoyable fights I’ve watched in a long time. MacDonald comes into this fight as a slight favorite, but Pyle isn’t one to sleep on, and a bet on him as an underdog could yield some good money. MacDonald comes into the fight with a great momentum, but Pyle has the edge in experience. This should also be a pretty fast-paced fight, and could be a contender for Fight of the Night. Look for MacDonald to use a large array of techniques to grind out a decision win over Pyle. MacDonald wins via Unanimous Decision.
JOSH CROSS: I’m really looking forward to this fight. I think Pyle has the best chance to win this fight on the ground, but it will be hard for him to take MacDonald down as Rory has great takedown defense. I think MacDonald will do better in the striking department and really Pyle’s best shot to win is on the ground. As long as Rory doesn’t make a big mistake that allows for Pyle to capitalize on and submit him, I think MacDonald pulls out the win. Pick: MacDonald via Decision.
JACK BRATCHER: At only 22-years-old, Rory MacDonald is one of the leading up-and-coming welterweights in the world. It seems inevitable this young Canadian will one day hold the UFC welterweight title. He’s strong, well-rounded and his only loss was a third round TKO “Fight of the Night” loss to Carlos Condit in June 2010. He’s coming off a unanimous decision over Nate Diaz in April. I believe Mike Pyle is highly underrated. Whenever you talk with Xtreme Couture fighters, Mike Pyle’s name always comes up as guys who excel in the gym. With 21 wins on his resume, 17 of those came via submission. Pyle is certainly capable of winning this fight, but I’m leaning toward the younger, stronger fighter. Pyle is 35 and has a ton more experience. MacDonald is the new breed and this will be a huge feather in his cap, but I see him taking this fight via decision.
Editor’s Note: All fight odds provided by BetUS.com.