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…on Evans/Ortiz at UFC 73 and Cage Rage 22

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Ortiz's fights with Ken Shamrock were uncompetitive shams

This week, I look at Evans/Ortiz and Cage Rage 22.

Will it be sweet for Sugar or will the Bad Boy come good?

UFC 73 has seen some interesting matches. However, no match has created so much discord and anger as the match between Rashad Evans and Tito Ortiz. In the world of web forums, where bile is spewed and much smack is talked, the arguments are polarised to incredible extremes. Either Rashad is nowhere near good enough or he’s better than Tito in every aspect of the game. Either Tito is still a monster that will crush Rashad or he’s a shell of his former self and was overrated in the first place. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground.

Breaking the fight down, I can see the pro-Evans points more than I can see the pro-Ortiz points. I fully believe that Evans possesses better boxing than Ortiz and there is little doubt that Evans had a more decorated collegiate wrestling career. However, Ortiz has a massive experience advantage and this isn’t a boxing or wrestling bout, it’s a mixed martial arts bout so I can see the reasoning behind the claim that Ortiz will dominate Rashad. The worry for Evans is what happens if Ortiz takes him down. Standing and in top position on the ground, he should be able to do well but, on his back, he is going to be in a lot of trouble.

If one thing has been proved about Tito down the years is that if he can take you down and keep you down, he will rough you up. It’s one of the cornerstones of his style; harsh ground and pound from the guard. Now, I have been surprised that more fighters have not tried to call his bluff a little and look for half guard instead of guard, bring him in close and try to sweep. Maybe Tito is too strong but nobody has tried it, which is maybe due to the level of competition and the styles of fighters he has fought. Since losing the Light Heavyweight title in September 2003, he has only beaten one top quality opponent which was Vitor Belfort, who was arguably on the slide at that time and has also not beaten a top quality opponent in over three years. The Shamrock bouts were an uncompetitive sham and the bout with Forrest Griffin tells us little, as Tito was injured and Forrest didn’t seem to believe he could win the bout until Tito started to gas.

Arguably, this is why many may think that Tito is overrated. The talent pool is much deeper now and you cannot see the likes of Elvis Sinosic or an undersized Evan Tanner getting title shots in the manner that they did in Tito’s era. Undoubtedly, he fought who was on offer and beat them soundly but many of these fighters were subsequently exposed and a career-defining victory has eluded him. Maybe we should not question the quality of these opponents because very few champions have reigns that stand up to current and future expectation. The UFC was the number two promotion in a growing sport. Chuck Liddell was considered a great champion but people have belittled the quality of fighters that he has fought sandwiched between two losses to Quinton Jackson. In my opinion, the only UFC champion whose championship record stands up to that level scrutiny is Matt Hughes, as the UFC was the only destination for the best at 170 lbs and he fought the best as a result. It is unfair to call Tito a “paper champion” or such like but his achievements have suffered as a result of time.

Rashad’s achievements have also taken a battering but all the negativity that has surrounded him lifted with two decisive victories that showed Evans’ improvement since winning the second season of the Ultimate Fighter with four decision victories. The stoppage of Jason Lambert was a watershed, as it showed that Evans was developing his grappling skill so he had something to do once he has used his excellent wrestling to ground the fight. The stunning knockout of Sean Salmon with a brutal right high kick showed that Evans’ slick boxing game was was evolving into an all-round kickboxing attack. However, Tito shows none of the improvement and upward momentum of Rashad so, you can’t help but think that if somebody is going to fight above themselves, it won’t be Ortiz.

Ultimately, I’m scared to pick a winner. With so many upsets and strange results, I think it would be unwise to pile your chips down on one fighter. I was told by a well-respected boxing journalist that Castillo would beat Hatton. Everybody thought Matt Serra was toast. However, I get the sneaking suspicion that it may be Rashad’s night. If it isn’t, it will be back to the drawing board as momentum is what seems to matter most in UFC.

Cage Rage 22

As per usual, Cage Rage is heavy on the heavyweights for their next show on the 14th of July and a strange bout will have many rushing to ProElite.com to see Herb Dean fight against Dave Legeno. However, let’s start with the main event. Tengiz Tedoradze completed his Cage Rage rehabilitation in February by regaining his British Heavyweight title from Rob Broughton, after being stripped of the title last July for fighting in Holland in the month leading up to his big match with James Thompson. On the same show, Butterbean scored a massive KO over James Thompson and followed it up at PRIDE 34 in April with a victory over Zuluzinho via submission. Rob Broughton showed that it is possible for a wrestler to stay outside Butterbean’s range and win with wrestling but Butterbean did not turn up in fighting shape for that contest. If Tedoradze gets caught, he’s going down, as the loss to Edson Drago showed.

In recent shows, Cage Rage have delivered comebacks for stars from British MMA’s yesteryear. This show is no different, as we see the return of former RINGS veteran, Lee Hasdell, “the Godfather of UK MMA”. Fighting across the world, Hasdell often came out on the losing end before entering retirement in 2002 due to work commitments. He had a successful comeback in 2004 but again disappeared with a 9-14-1 record. Now 41, Cage Rage have coaxed the heavyweight out of retirement to fight another longtime veteran of the MMA game, Mario “Zen Machine” Sperry. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt has fought sporadically throughout his 12-year career and has never quite managed to get to even the second tier. It seems a fair fight and for longtime supporters of British MMA, this is a welcome trip down memory lane.

I was surprised to find out that Wesley “Cabbage” Correira doesn’t have a worse record than Lee Hasdell, given that he has lost five of his last six. While his opponent, James Thompson, has a patchy record of his own, you would feel that Thompson has more of a chance to win this one than Cabbage. Thompson’s inconsistencies frustrate many, given his eminent marketability. However, this fight could be tailor-made for him. Despite his losses, Cabbage still has a name with some people and a win here could set James back up for a rematch with Butterbean or even a crack at Tengiz Tedoradze.

Edson Drago, the hard-hitting Brazilian with a five-second KO victory over Tengiz Tedoradze, makes his long-awaited return to take on former K-1 fighter, Gary “Smiler” Turner. Turner’s long-coming return to MMA action saw him defeat an out-of-shape Tank Abbott after Abbott gassed. This does not bode well for Turner, whose chin is sure to be tested. Turner is a likeable, pleasant man who is a good ambassador for the sport and a win for him here could well ignite his MMA career. However, I can’t help but think that a little more careful matchmaking would have seen another bout or two before this one.

Finally, amongst the main bouts is a curious little gem that sees Herb Dean, more famous for his career as a top-level MMA referee, taking on “Deathwish” Dave Legeno, more famous for his career as an actor and the face of the video game “the Getaway”. While Legeno has managed to turn his career around, winning his last three, the quality of the opposition has been low. Dean’s pedigree as a fighter is not good. His 2-2 record has seen him fight only at a low level and this will be only his fifth fight in six years. Who knows if it will be good but I can see this being considered a must-see for MMA geeks.

Kimbo Slice

Mark your calendars, my friends; September 14th 2007. If you get your kicks by seeing a Nigerian comedian fight a giant or seeing two fat man attempt to put submissions on each other, September 14th provides us with the next step in the fighting career of Kimbo Slice, when he takes on Tank Abbott at Cage Fury Fighting Championships 6 in Atlantic City.

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Written by Michael Farrow

July 3, 2007 at 3:33 pm

Posted in MMA

Tagged with ,

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