UFC 133: Evans vs. Ortiz takes place tonight, and the main event features a light heavyweight rematch between two champions who originally crossed paths back in 2007 and battled to a draw. Fast forward to 2011, where Tito Ortiz picked up his first win in five years and Rashad Evans finally returns from a over a year of inactivity after decisioning Quinton Rampage Jackson in 2010. Today, we give our predictions for this card (which has changed lineups more times than we can count) as well as a few picks from our loyal readers.
Lets get it started!
Rashad Evans vs. Tito Ortiz
Fresh off his monstrous win over Ryan Bader, Tito Ortiz stepped in for an injured Phil Davis. The wily veteran smashed Bader with a right hand and followed up with a guillotine choke to secure his first win in nearly 5 years. During that drought, Ortiz faced Evans and the two fought to a draw. Ortiz was penalized a point for holding on to the fence in a fight that many thought that he was winning. Ortiz’s gameplan has not changed very much. He still relies heavily on his wrestling to keep the fight where he wants it. Although one tap out does not a submission artist make, it wouldn’t be terrible to see Ortiz rely on a combination of his wrestling and a submission game.
Rashad Evans has two blemishes on his record: A knockout loss to Lyoto Machida, which saw the light heavyweight belt change hands, and a draw to Tito Ortiz. Evans is most definitely looking to avenge that loss tonight as he steps in there against Ortiz, again. Evans has looked lean and mean since injury forced him out of his fight with Shogun Rua for the light heavyweight title. Since then, he’s split with his camp, feuded with his former training partner, and has apparently had Bernard Hopkins training him in his boxing.
Final Decision: This fight is most definitely intriguing. Both guys seem to match up well against each other and it will most definitely be strength against strength. As high as Tito was riding after his fight with Ryan Bader, the smart money, in my opinion, has got to be on Evans. Evans has an axe to grind and is looking to impress. With a potential title shot on the line for each fighter hanging in the blance, I fully expect Rashad to grind this one out in a smart, grinding, trudging wrestling match. I’ll take Evans in a 3 round unanimous decision. Ortiz, although taking a loss will definitely NOT be cut, though. He’s a gamer and taking one for the team with a short camp and getting back in the cage so shortly after his last fight.
Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Vitor Belfort
Being KO’d by Anderson Silva is nothing to be ashamed of. The dude has smashed nearly everyone while on his UFC warpath, with very few exceptions. Despite the loss, and the apparent bad blood before the fight, Belfort seems to have his training regimen dialed in. The pictures from him camp look good. Being the bigger and possibly stronger fighter in this one isn’t going to hurt much, either. Belfort’s always had nasty hand speed and power, it’s been his cardio that’s been a question mark, notoriously. As he’s shown in his last few fights, it doesn’t appear to be much of a problem now. Scoring (T)KO in 4 of his last 5 wins, he’s looking to hit Akiyama hard, and often.
Before coming into the UFC, Akiyama was touted as one of the East’s best fighters. With only one loss on his resume, he became the great hope for JMMA in the UFC. His tenure inside the octagon hasn’t always worked out well for him, though. Sporting a 1-2 record, Akiyama has 3 Fight of the Night awards under his belt, as well. So even though he’s not always coming out on top, the fans are definitely getting their money’s worth.
Final Decision: I definitely think there will be an award for this fight. Unfortunately for Akiyama, it will be Vitor Belfort who’s the recipient of the Knockout of the Night award at his expense. Belfort is stronger, has heavier hands, and can keep the distance from Akiyama. Essentially it comes down to ways to win, and Belfort has more. If Akiyama can draw Belfort into a frenzied slugfest early and tire him out, Akiyama might be able to close the distance and grind him for the last round or so. However, as Akiyama displayed in his Chris Leben fight, his gas tank isn’t always top-notch either. I’m taking Belfort by TKO in the closing minute of round number 2.
Brian Ebersole vs. Dennis Hallman
Between these two fighters, they have 120 bouts between them with a total record of 90-27-3. Whoa. Ebersole is also famous for his carwheel kick knockout against Shannon Forrester in 2009. If you haven’t seen it, it’s pretty nasty. Despite holding one of the top highlight reel knockouts in MMA, ever, Ebersole has pretty much carved out his niche in the submission game. Having submitted 9 of his first 10 wins, Ebersole is incredibly dangerous on the ground.
Dennis Hallman is also known for his crafty submission game. More than 3/4s of his wins came via submission. I once saw him fight someone (and win via submission) while wearing a full luchador costume, mask included. Having two wins over Matt Hamill, I just can’t bring myself to dislike Hallman.
Final Decision: I think this fight has potential to be Fight of the Night, or an absolute snooze fest. I’m going with Dennis Hallman in the hopes that he can get it to the ground and pull out some crazy submission for a highlight reel victory. If Ebersole can keep it standing, Hallman will defintely be out of his element and there is a chance he could get caught. Ebersole has never been KO’d and has been on a tear lately. Even with that in mind, I’m still taking Hallman, third round submission.
Jorge Rivera vs. Constantinos Phillippou
There’s not a whole lot to know about Constantinos Phillippou. He didn’t make the cut on his first Ultimate Fighter appearance. He also lost a late-replacement catchweight fight in his first ever UFC fight. But, to give him the benefit of the doubt, he was a late replacement and had to go up in weight. In his non-UFC record, he sports a very impressive 7-1 (1) losing his first ever fight and scoring a “no contest” after a cup check. He sports 4 wins by way of (T)KO and looks to be one of the hungry up-and-comers of the new generation. Heavy hands and a determination to make it on the big stage is a very dangerous combination.
Rivera has been around the block a time or two. Even if his videos to annoy Bisping annoyed the hell out of me, I still can’t bring myself to hate on him. He’s a wily vet who’s looking to dish out some punishment in a big way. His most recent loss to Bisping could have easily resulted in a DQ, but Rivera chose to soldier on (get it? SOLDIER on? Because he’s a member of Ranger Up…). To say the very least about that fight, it was definitely ugly and after catching that knee, he was not the same in the following minutes.
Final Decision: Both fighters want to keep this one on the feet. Unless someone gets rocked, I don’t think this one will spent much time on the ground. I see Phillippou scoring an early right, but Rivera being able to use his experience to fight smartly and recover before scoring a serious shot of his own. I expect to see this one go the distance with the judges handing a close decision win to Jorge Rivera: 29-28 on all three scorecards.
Rashad Evans vs. Tito Ortiz
If anyone thought Tito Ortiz would pick up a decisive victory over a top 10 talent prior to July, they would have been met with laughing and criticism. That’s exactly what I experienced when I picked Tito Ortiz to defeat Ryan Bader at UFC 132. It seems like that will probably be the case in this fight as well.
Rashad Evans is returning to the octagon after 14 months of inactivity following his decision victory over Rampage back in May 2010. Along the way he’s encountered fight changes, turned down other fights to wait for his title shot, blew out his knee himself, rehabilitated said knee, waited for the champ again, and finally accepted another fight when the new champion was injured. His original opponent, Phil Davis, pulled out with an injury and Tito quickly accepted the fight after a short time deciding whether it was worth it or not.
Well he decided that it was, and with his career not on the line he’ll be rematching Rashad after fighting to a draw in their original fight. Tito was on his way to a decision victory, but a point deduction stopped that.
Final Decision: I just can’t pick a fighter to take an easy victory after such a long time away from the sport. With this fight, I’m hoping lightning strikes twice and we see the underdog in Ortiz pick up a submission victory to push him close to a title shot.
Vitor Belfort vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama
I’m not gonna get too much into this, but a lot of people know that Vitor Belfort is my favorite fighter. In 2011, I honestly think that he’s a better and more complete fighter than he was growing up inside the sport. Although faced with ups and downs, he’s rebounded both his career (except for a KO loss to Anderson earlier in the year) and personal life and has really made the adjustments necessary to back up claims of being a top 10 middleweight, which he is.
Akiyama, on the other hand, has found success just once in his UFC career against Alan Belcher in a highly criticized decision. Yoshihiro has a knack for putting on incredibly exciting performances though, ones that have put him in the graces of both Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta. A widely praised Judoka standout, “Sexyama” puts on impressive displays of punishment while receiving damage himself.
Thats where this fight should fail him unfortunately. Belfort’s striking, grappling, wrestling and size are all notches above Akiyama’s, who should really use his high level judo in this fight. While Yoshihiro is a world class judo practitioner, Vitor himself has a black belt in judo.
Final Decision: Vitor Belfort should, and more than likely will defeat Akiyama tonight, but the Japanese superstar’s chin and will to fight might make this go three rounds in an exciting battle. With the trend of comeback KOs we’ve seen lately I won’t completely count the Sexy One out, but Vitor Belfort defeats Yoshihiro Akiyama via technical knockout, round 2.
I’m gonna play a guessing game for the rest of the main card outside of the Rory MacDonald vs. Mike Pyle fight, as the fights are such toss ups that it’s hard for me to pick a clear winner.
Rory Macdonald defeats Mike Pyle via unanimous decision.
Dennis Hallman defeats Brian Ebersole via submission, round 3.
Jorge Rivera defeats Constantinos Phillippou via KO, round 1.
Rashad Evans vs. Tito Ortiz – I would love to see Tito win this fight and become a top contender again. I grew up watching the guy, and I can’t root against him, plus it would be crazy to see him go from fighting for his job to fighting for the title. With that being said, I just don’t know if he can beat Rashad. Rashad has excellent takedowns, and Tito was easily taken down by Matt Hamill. Ring rust could play a huge factor in this fight for Rashad. He has been out for a long time, and Tito has all the momentum on his side. I still think Rashad wins a very close decision.
Vitor Belfort vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama – I’ll be rooting for Sexyama in this one because I really don’t want him to get cut. Unfortunately, I don’t think he has an advantage over Belfort in any area. I don’t think he can take The Phenom down, and I expect him to get outboxed standing up. Vitor Belfort by 2nd round TKO.
Dennis Hallman vs. Brian Ebersole – This is perhaps the closest fight (on paper) on the card. I honestly don’t know too much about either guy, but Ebersole beat the hell out of Chris Lytle in his last fight, and he has amazing chest hair, so I’m putting my money on him. Brian Ebersole by unanimous decision.
Jorge Rivera vs. Constantinos Philippou – Jorge Rivera has some pretty good boxing and I have no idea who Philippou is. I’m just going to throw out a wild guess here. Jorge Rivera by 2nd round KO.
Rory MacDonald vs. Mike Pyle – MacDonald is the future of the sport. He’s still undefeated in my mind (his fight with Condit was stopped too soon), and he continues to improve. I don’t think he’ll be able to stop the new Mike Pyle, but he’ll dominate him the entire fight. Rory MacDonald by unanimous decision.
Rashad Evans - The “Tito Ortiz is back” train is going to crash as soon as it took off. There’s always the possibility that cage rust and the drama with Jon Jones could have an effect on Rashad’s performance, but he can still outwrestle Tito en route to a decision victory (and heck, if Matt Hamill can take current Tito down, then so can Rashad).
Yoshihiro Akiyama – I’m so torn since both are such impeccably handsome gentlemen (no homo…I think), but something tells me we’re seeing an upset. Vitor’s UFC tenures have been so wonky and back & forth that I just don’t know if I can choose him anymore. That and Akiyama has a damn solid chin.
Brian Ebersole – Real toss up for me, both are pretty good at what they do, but I think Brian catches Dennis late in the fight.
Jorge Rivera – Ridiculous that this is on the main card instead of say, Hendricks vs. Pierce. Constantinos is a decent prospect but I think he’s being thrown to the wolves a little too quickly. Jorge stops him early.
Rory Macdonald – Mike Pyle derailed the Hathaway hype train, but I see no such thing happening here. Rory has the advantage in the stand up department and is definitely one of the best up and coming WWs in Zuffa. I think he submits Pyle in the 2nd, and I’m gonna say by guillotine or RNC.
Chad Mendes – Takedown, grind, beat em up a bit, rinse, repeat.
Alexander Gustafsson – This could be the kid’s coming out party. He’s been slowly getting better and better since the Phil Davis loss (even spent time training w/ him afterward).