Dig into the history of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and you'll eventually come across a period referred to as "The Dark Ages."
It was during this time the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) was all but banned in the United States, making it extremely difficult for the fight promotion to turn a profit. It began in late 1999 when, thanks to a push from Arizona Senator John McCain, most cable and satellite providers stopped carrying UFC events. The political pressure was too much, it seemed, to worry providing coverage for a fringe sport.
UFC 23 was the first event to be affected, the second foray into Japan for the company, and continued all the way through UFC 30. That's when Zuffa purchased the UFC and helped bring it back onto cable and satellite while also releasing events on video, something the previous owners had been unable to do.
Cocky and brash outside of the Octagon, he was equally as brutal and punishing inside of it. He was a perfect posterboy for the struggling company. Up until the mid-2000s boom period brought upon by The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), his bout with Ken Shamrock at UFC 40 stood of the promotion's landmark achievement in terms of pay-per-view (PPV) buyrates.
That was nearly a decade ago.
As it stands, we are a week away (July 7) from Ortiz's last bout, a rubber match against Forrest Griffin at UFC 148: "Silva vs. Sonnen II." During the weekend's festivities, he will be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame to join rivals Shamrock, Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell before hoping to end his career with a 17th win.
Before "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" steps into the Octagon for the final time, we'll take a look at his bout against Wanderlei Silva, smack in the middle of "The Dark Ages," in which he won the 205-pound strap, the title he wore around his waist for over three years, nearly twice as long as anyone else who held it.
Let's dive in.
The Brazilian takes the center of the Octagon but neither man seems very eager to engage. They know they potentially have nearly half an hour of fighting in front of them and have to be wary of their energy levels.
Silva delivers an inside leg kick, hoping to take some spring out of Ortiz's patented power double leg takedown. Another kick from "The Axe Murderer" lands just as Ortiz closes the distance for a takedown. It fails so the two remain vertical.
Finally, the Brazilian opens up in the manner he would eventually become known -- and beloved by fans -- for, with fists flying towards Ortiz's head. The American ducks under and grabs hold of his opponent's body. Lifting Silva up, Ortiz drops him down and sets to work. He manages to advance to sidemount but Silva's Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) pedigree forces "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" back to full guard.
Despite being in what is considered a neutral position, he manages to land vicious ground and pound, a style which would grow to be synonymous with his name over the course of his storied career. Couture had dirty boxing, Liddell was known for his decapitating overhand right and Ortiz perfected the style Mark Coleman brought into the Octagon.
Silva opens up the second round aggressively, landing a vicious shot as Ortiz again seeks out the double leg takedown. It's stuffed and "The Axe Murderer" begins throwing heavy leather at his American opponent. In a shocking twist, it's the wrestler who tags the Muay Thai master. Ortiz counters with a solid right and drops Silva, face first, into the mat.
Roles suddenly reversed, it's Ortiz defending the takedown as he's pinned up against the cage. Hard shots to the Brazilian's body allow "The Huntington Beach Boy" to flip Silva onto his back where he begins to land more brutal ground and pound.
The PRIDE Fighting Championships veteran spends the rest of the round on his back as he's unable to mount any kind of counter to Ortiz's stifling control. His wrestling base is simply too much for the Brazilian.
Unlike the previous round, Silva isn't quick to engage after the break, perhaps worried of finding himself in the same position he was in for nearly the entirety of the second round. Ortiz dives for a takedown but this time the Brazilian is able to fend him off, landing a knee in the process.
A leg kick from Silva is followed up with another failed takedown from Ortiz. This time around the American sets it up with a cross and clinches the Brazilian up but Silva manages to break free of his opponent's hold. Ortiz throws a body kick but it's caught and Silva narrowly misses a huge hook as he hangs onto Ortiz's leg.
Silva bullies Ortiz against the cage and cracks him on the jaw with a right hand, momentarily dropping the American onto the mat. He quickly regains his footing and essentially sprints across the Octagon with "The Axe Murderer" in hot pursuit. Silva opens up against his opponent along the cage but he fails to land the killing blow before Ortiz is able to reverse positions and drops Silva onto his back to end the round.
As the fight enters championship rounds, both men begin to slow their pace. Almost midway through the fourth, a missed combination from Silva allows Ortiz to land yet another takedown, where the action remains for the duration of the round. The story repeats itself in the fifth which spells doom for Silva on the scorecards as the fight ends.
It wasn't pretty but it was effective. After losing out to Frank Shamrock seven months prior, Ortiz became the champion and flag bearer for his weight division, a role he would hold until losing to Couture at UFC 44.
Between those two points in time, Ortiz racked up five defenses, more than any other light heavyweight champion before or after. It's been quite a ride for "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy."
Hall of Fame-caliber career? Sure. Legendary? Possibly.
But can Ortiz get one last win before calling it a day?