History in the Making: Rashad Evans vs Tito Ortiz leave unfinished business after draw at UFC 73

Photo via UFC.com

When they first met in the summer of 2007 at UFC 73: "Stacked," Tito Ortiz was coming off a devastating third round technical knockout (TKO) to rival Chuck Liddell.

It was the second time the former champ met that fate at the hands of "The Iceman" and he was trying to regain some of the steam he had accumulated by beating the likes of Vitor Belfort, Forrest Griffin, and Ken Shamrock.

Rashad Evans came into the UFC via The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) a little less than two years prior. He won the second season's heavyweight tournament but immediately dropped down to a more natural -- albeit still a bit oversized -- weight of 205-pounds.

His style wasn't pretty but it was effective. Perhaps motivated by his training or his three-fight winning streak in the Octagon, he began to let his hands -- and feet -- go loose. He chalked up two stoppage victories, the second being one of the most brutal head kick KOs in the promotion's history.

"The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" was the established star and Evans had little to nothing to lose.

On Saturday (August 6), the roles at UFC 133: "Evans vs. Ortiz" are reversed. "Suga" is looking to get back into the title picture, having been on the outside looking in since he was dethroned by Lyoto Machida at UFC 98. On the flipside, Ortiz is experiencing a late-career renaissance and is taking this bout on short notice.

It's a rematch four years in the making.

There must be nothing worse than knowing you can't get to the top of your profession. At least, not as long as there's one person who is better than you up there.

That's the situation Ortiz found himself in at the end of 2006.

He first faced off against Liddell two and a half years prior and was stopped by punches. 30 months and several fights later, only the venue and the calendar changed; the result stayed the same.

So he was back to working his way up to a title no one really wanted to see him contend for. That was until "The Iceman" ran into his own Achilles' heel in the form of Quinton Jackson.

When "Rampage" put the mohawked warrior on ice the 205-pound division that had been known as "Liddell Land" for years was suddenly an open playing field.

Ortiz went into his bout with Evans knowing that a win or two could put him inside the cage with Jackson or whoever happened to be champion at the time, as long as it wasn't Chuck.

"Suga" had only been training as a mixed martial artist (MMA) for less than two years when he was selected to compete in the second season of TUF so perhaps too harsh a critique of his early career might be too much.

While he finished three of his first five opponents before entering the Octagon, he struggled once he reached the big stage and scored lackluster decision wins over Brad Imes, Sam Hoger, and Stephan Bonnar.

As little as the three wins did to set the MMA world on fire, they were enough to earn Evans a spot on UFC 63. Finally, against Jason Lambert, "Suga" began to fulfill some of the potential he showed during the TUF tapings. After that victory, he was back on Fight Night cards.

Only this time, he was headlining them.

An absolutely perfect head kick six minutes into his fight with Sean Salmon ensured that Evans would never fight on Spike TV again. It also guaranteed a high-profile match-up with a former champion.

Evans/Ortiz was booked at UFC 73 and it was not without its controversy. 

Let's take a closer look.

Ortiz opens up immediately with a head kick and follows it with a takedown that is met with a chorus of cheers. Evans spends a minute on his back while the audience chants, "Tito, Tito" over and over.

"Suga" gets back to his feet and the two exchange wildly before the former champ is able to shove the Greg Jackson fighter against the cage. A mouthpiece finds its way onto the mat and the referee calls a stop to the action.

Upon the restart, both fighters seems a bit hesitant until Ortiz shoots in for another takedown. Evans sprawls out and blocks it and ends up grinding his opponent against the cage. "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" shows his wrestling pedigree and regains the dominant position.

Going into the second round, a small cut has opened up under Ortiz's right eye but it seems as if he's up on the scorecard.

More patience to start off the second stanza as neither fighter wants to make the first mistake. A poor shot from Evans is stuffed easily by Ortiz and the fighters are back to square one; circling around the mat, trying to find their distance.

"Suga" then shoves Ortiz against the cage and jockeys for position. He's doing everything in his power to get the former champion down but the Mexican-American is doing the same to prevent him... and then some. He grabs onto the cage and is admonished by the referee. "Next time, I'll take away a point," he says.

The two circle the cage and exchange, throwing punches, elbows, and knees in order to gain an advantage. Soon Ortiz attempts to close the round with a takedown. Evans was able to reverse position however and the warning from earlier becomes a reality as the former champ's fingers wrap around the chainlink to prevent a takedown.

Evans -- seemingly thinking he had a dominant position late in the round -- allows his defenses to lapse and Ortiz sinks in the same choke he finished Bader with. The horn sounds and "Suga" breathes a sigh of relief. He survives to see the third and to top it off, Ortiz lost a point due to his infraction.

Most of the final round is spent against the cage as "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" attempts to get his opponent to the mat. The round is razor close and in fact, may have been decided in the last 10 seconds after "Suga" gets a takedown and lands some elbows.

Each commentator scores the fight as a 28-28 but acknowledge the sometimes erratic scoring MMA judges can be known for. Unfortunately for the two fighters and the fans, they were right. The judges rule the fight a draw. Nothing was resolved. 

Neither fighter was entirely thrilled with the result. Some pundits -- before the point deduction -- score the bout for Ortiz. It seemed "Suga" was lucky enough to skate by with the draw.

Lady Luck continued to shine down on him as he won five of his next six including a tenure at the 205-pound champion. In fact, each of his fights following UFC 73 were pay-per-view (PPV) headliners.

Ortiz went on a three-fight skid and the word "retirement" was thrown around as loosely as the f-word in a biker bar. It looked like he reached the end of the road when he was booked against Ryan Bader, a wrestler who seemed to be a better, younger version of "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" in every way.

One Ortiz punch and a tight arm-in guillotine choke later and the former champ suddenly has a second lease on life.

Can we steal back the win that was denied him four years ago?

Or will Evans take the sail out of Ortiz's second wind?

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