Tito Ortiz hadn't won a fight in nearly five years and was on a three-fight losing streak.
His 36-year old body carried the bumps and bruises of nearly a decade and a half of fighting and simply didn't respond the way it used to. Before, when Ortiz commanded his arms to grab the likes of Evan Tanner and and his legs to help slam the challenger against the mat into unconsciousness, his body didn't hesitate to comply.
Losing to former champions Chuck Liddell, Forrest Griffin, and Lyoto Machida isn't anything to be ashamed about but a fighter can only lose so many times in a row -- especially at a certain age -- before the thought of retirement begins to creep into his mind. After a loss to Matt Hamill, a fighter who never cracked the upper echelon of the light heavyweight division, it seemed time had passed by "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy."
So when a fight between him and The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 8 winner Ryan Bader was signed, it was seen as merely a way to get "Darth" back on the winning track after dropping his first fight to eventual and current champion Jon Jones. But Ortiz had a different plan. And it didn't involve being anyone's stepping stone.
The former champion steps inside the Octagon this weekend as part of the UFC 140: "Jones vs. Machida" event to take on another longtime veteran and fan favorite in Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. He does so with a recent win under his belt for the first time in years.
Let's take a closer look at his UFC 132 bout with Bader.
Going into the bout with Bader, Ortiz was starting to be better known for his squabbles with baby mama Jenna Jameson than as being one of the most dominant champions in UFC history. Arrested on domestic violence charges, Ortiz claimed innocence and rather placed blame for the altercation on the actress.
He was becoming more of a fixture on websites like TMZ and Perez Hilton than MMAMania and for any combat sports athlete -- Floyd Mayweather aside -- that can be a death knell for their career. Ortiz was determined to make a 180 and right ship, however. He did so at UFC 132.
The fight opens up with both fighters looking to stand and bang. Bader begins to employ leg kicks early on, hoping that putting his opponent's leg out of commission will ensure less takedown attempts should the fight carry on into the later rounds.
Las Vegas being like a second home to "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy," those in attendance begin to chant his name. Like a giant skulled Hulk Hogan, Ortiz seems to draw off the crowd's energy and absolutely demolishes Bader with a right hook on the jaw that floors the TUF alum.
The audience goes from supportive to ravenous. They explode into cheers as their hero jumps on his fallen opponent in vintage Ortiz fashion. An attempt at ground and pound is foiled as Bader gets to his knees and tries to reverse position on the former champion. Ortiz allows the reversal simply to sink in the guillotine choke he was working towards.
Zero wins in five years, three losses in a row. None of that matters when Ortiz has his arm wrapped around your neck and squeezing the air from your throat. Short of going unconscious, Bader has no other choice than to tap.
An emotional Ortiz completed his signature "burial celebration" for the first time since defeating Ken Shamrock in 2006. For longtime fans of the sport, it was like seeing an ex you hadn't seen in a while. Time had quelled all bad blood so instead, you only reminisce about all the good times you had.
Ortiz went on to lose his next fight, a bout he took on extremely late notice against former foe and champion Rashad Evans. At one point, it seemed lightning would strike twice when "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" nearly slapped on the same choke that felled Bader. Considering the circumstances, no one was calling for the "Huntington Beach Bad Boy" to hang up his gloves.
He may be arrogant, he may make excuses but Ortiz is passionate about what he does and will continue to do it until his body finally gives up on him. It may not do what it used to but it did enough to beat Bader that night.
Does Ortiz have enough to beat "Minotouro" this weekend?