"The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" has many different accomplishments he can hang his trademarked flaming beanie on but that may not be one of them. He was the face of the promotion during the "Dark Ages," a period where nearly every single cable and satellite carrier dropped UFC events from its programming. His style of fighting and personality gave the company the star it needed to survive those turbulent times.
Ortiz's career has spanned a decade and a half during which he found himself opposite legends in the sports and stars in the making. Names like Ken Shamrock, Randy Couture, Vitor Belfort, Wanderlei Silva and Rashad Evans litter his fight résumé.
He holds a record five light heavyweight title defenses, one more than Frank Shamrock and Chuck Liddell, both of whom are regarded as two of the best fighters to ever step foot inside the Octagon and three more than "Bones" himself. But a closer look at these defenses reveal Ortiz was a great fighter but not the greatest.
After tonight's (April 21) UFC 145 main event, the honor may very well go to Jones.
Revisionist history can be bothersome but bear with me for a moment.
Ortiz won the light heavyweight title from a before-his-prime Wanderlei Silva in 2000. Had the fight taken place three years later, it would have been much more impressive but at the time, "The Axe Murderer" hadn't come into his own. Ortiz's first defense would come against natural middleweight Yuki Kondo blown up to 205-pounds to challenge for the title in his native country.
"The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" then put his belt on the line against Evan Tanner and thoroughly trounced him. There's nothing I can take away from this victory. Tanner had an unblemished UFC record at the time and had only lost twice in over two dozen mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts going into his fight with Ortiz. The next title defense for the champion was a farce, however, as he took on Elvis Sinosic. A barely over .500 fighter, the Aussie was granted a five rounder against Ortiz after pulling off a surprising submission victory over Jeremy Horn.
The next two title defenses would come against Vladimir Matyushenko -- a late replacement for Vitor Belfort -- and Ken Shamrock -- who at 38 years old was well past his prime -- two bouts which fall victim to extenuating circumstances.
Fast forward nearly a decade and Jon Jones is experiencing a similar level of domination in the light heavyweight division albeit against much tougher competition.
Jones won the belt from Mauricio Rua at UFC 128 after "Shogun" had knocked out the once thought to be unbeatable Lyoto Machida. Rua, who in 2005, walked through the PRIDE Fighting Championships grand prix and took out Quinton Jackson, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Alistair Overeem and Ricardo Arona. "Bones" battered him for two and a half rounds before the fight was stopped.
Next up for the Greg Jackson product was Jackson who was the first man to become the undisputed number one light heavyweight in the world after unifying his UFC title with Dan Henderson's strap from PRIDE at UFC 75. Jones dominated "Rampage," barely allowing the Memphis native to land a single punch. And then last December, Machida got his second crack at the title but fell short when Jones choked him unconscious at the end of the second round.
And tonight, it's Rashad Evans. Four opponents, all of which were at one point recognized as the best 205-pound fighter in the world.
Should Jones win tonight, there's no doubt who the greatest light heavyweight of all time is.
Could there even be any doubt he is the greatest fighter period?