Tito Ortiz and Forrest Griffin will duke it out this Saturday in a rematch to see who moves back up the ladder at 205, and who is forced to step down another rung at light-heavyweight. Here are some factors to consider:
Tito Ortiz has always depended on solid wrestling to score some of his biggest wins during his heyday as UFC light-heavyweight champ. When things get tough on the feet, Ortiz can always fire back with punches or decide to shoot in for a single and double to turn things around. In fact it was probably a late takedown in his first fight with Forrest Griffin which ended up helping the Mexican-American light-heavyweight get the nod in a close fight. Having this strong wrestling pedigree under his belt will allow Ortiz to dictate where the fight will take place. Griffin has takedown defense, but Ortiz's skill and relentlessness in shooting in for doubles and singles should allow him to plant Griffin on his back. From there Ortiz will most likely look to score some vintage "Huntington Beach Bad Boy" ground and pound, as opposed to looking for submissions from the top position.
Speaking of submissions, Griffin has a pretty solid and often underrated BJJ game. But the same could be said for Tito Ortiz. Griffin tapped out the man many feel should be wearing the UFC light-heavyweight gold right now, and Ortiz came close to catching the man currently holding said gold belt, Lyoto Machida, when Ortiz exploded with a well-executed triangle choke. Both fighters have a good ground game in terms of BJJ, but I see them cancelling each other out on the ground in that respect. The big edge on the ground will not be submissions but the ground and pound striking from up top that Ortiz will rain down.
Both fighters showed in the first fight that they can get the better of one another when it comes to striking. Griffin would have the advantage in leg kicks and perhaps gives him an edge in the overall striking game. He also has a lot more confidence this time out against Ortiz--the first time they fought it was his first time competing against a big name competitor like Ortiz. Griffin could possibly have the slight edge and has good leg kicks, but that kicking advantage could prove to be a detriment to the Las Vegas resident for when he attacks with the leg Ortiz could be ready to pounce by grabbing the leg and rushing in for the takedown. That threat of being taking down could nullify the effectiveness of the Griffin's kicking game. Ortiz has already thrown out that threat verbally in the pre-fight promotional banter.
Both fighters really need a win right now. Griffin is coming off the most difficult defeat of his career. He appeared to be very shook up about the whole situation and has had to pick up the pieces and get back to the drawing board. I thought that loss might still be impacting him but Griffin appears to have successfully erased and suppressed the negativity surrounding his last performance and has a renewed intensity for Ortiz. This rematch gives him a chance to avenge a loss he felt he didn't suffer in the first place. He's really motivated to win this fight. Ortiz is looking to start a new chapter in his career and go for one final run at the 205 pound title. He's injury free, in a good place with president Dana White and the UFC brass, and looking to be in tip top shape for this upcoming intense battle.
I've flip flopped on this one a lot, but I'll stick with Ortiz in this one. He has solid wrestling in his back pocket and that can allow him to get Griffin on his back. From there he can land some really brutal ground and pound. I think the advantage Ortiz has the the ground in terms of doing damage with strikes is greater than any advantage Griffin may have over Ortiz in terms of striking on the feet. I think we might end up with a similar finish to this fight, a close decision, perhaps controversial, going the way of Tito Ortiz. With many fans and people in the MMA industry discouraged with judging in MMA these days, a judges decision could be a very unpredictable event. Nonetheless I'll predict 29-28 for Ortiz on all 3 judges' scorecards.
JD is the co-founder of the Armbar MMA Clothing line