Love him or hate him he is the first UFC fighter that transcended the sport. An argument could be made for Ken Shamrock or Royce Gracie, I understand that. Tito ushered in the new era of MMA and more importantly the the blanket of Zuffa’s ownership. Today, we look at five fights that will forever define his legacy.
UFC 40: Vendetta was unique. It was the first “big fight” in UFC history and by big fight I mean with hype and production value to support it. Tito disrespected Ken at an earlier event and the feud started there. Unfortunately for Ken, Tito beat him up so badly his corner stopped the fight after the third round. The show smashed UFC gate records and because of Shamrock’s popularity it was even covered by ESPN. Big John McCarthy said it best.
When that show (UFC 40) happened, I honestly felt like it was going to make it. Throughout the years, things were happening, and everything always looked bleak. It always looked like, this is it, this is going to be the last time. This is going to be the last year. But, when I was standing in the Octagon at UFC 40, I remember standing there before the Ortiz/Shamrock fight and looking around. The energy of that fight, it was phenomenal, and it was the first time I honestly said, it’s going to make it.
Chuck Liddell rematch
In the first fight with Tito at UFC 47, Liddell TKO’d Ortiz in the biggest bout since UFC 40. Tito received a poke to the eye that many thought was intentional. It allowed Chuck to move in for the kill and score the biggest win of his career to that point. They had a rematch at UFC 66 that saw Ortiz winning the second round with kickboxing. Sure he lost the fight, but it showed the world he had improved significantly.
Tito’s career was in deep trouble riding in to UFC 132 where he would face Ryan Bader. If he lost, he was gone from the UFC. No one gave him a chance and if you did – prove it. In the first round, Tito rocked Bader and locked in a tight guillotine choke to get the submission victory and the crowd went insane showing their appreciation for the veteran.
After losing to Chuck Liddell, Ortiz was supposed to face Guy Mezger in a rematch, but the fight fell through. He defeated a natural middleweight in Patrick Cote in a lackluster fight, which gained him no new respect from fans. It wasn’t until Tito headlined the next event that he would return to his former glory. At UFC 51 he defeated Vitor Belfort in a solid bout via split decision. Despite Liddell’s displeasure in the audience, Tito did enough to win.
His first fight with Forrest Griffin at UFC 59 was the one that welcomed him back to the UFC. He had been absent for quite a while and at the time the UFC was not having PPV events every single month so it seemed like forever. When he did return he faced UFC Ultimate Fighter season one winner Forrest Griffin. It was a close bout that Ortiz won with a takedown in the final minutes according to commentators. It was a split decision win, but a win nonetheless.
Did we leave any out? Let us know in the comments.