Two of the most recognizable and experienced light heavyweights in UFC history will settle the score this Saturday night as former light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz takes on former light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin for the third time in Ortiz's retirement fight in the co-main event of UFC 148 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Tito Ortiz is still the longest reigning UFC light heavyweight champion in the promotion's storied history, although that record is in serious jeopardy soon. "The People's Champion" has spent almost his entire career in the UFC, all but one fight, and that will finally come to a close Saturday night against Griffin in a trilogy bout, his 27th in the promotion.
Forrest Griffin did not look very good in his last fight, a first round drubbing at the hands of Mauricio Rua. He's back and motivated to put on a good performance. I'm sure he's hoping that this rematch will have better results than his last one in Brazil.
Can Ortiz go out on a high note? Will Griffin be able to bounce back and put a capper on this trilogy? What's the key to victory for both men on Saturday night?
Let's find out:Tito Ortiz
Record: 16-10-1 overall, 15-10-1 in the UFC
How he got here: Aside from one fight in 1998, Tito Ortiz has spent his entire career fighting in the UFC. He debuted at UFC 13 as an alternate, smashing his first opponent in 31 seconds before stepping in to battle Lion's Den fighter Guy Mezger in the finals, losing via guillotine choke.
Ortiz returned in 1999 and seemed unstoppable, defeating Ken Shamrock protege Jerry Bohlander and avenging his loss to Mezger to earn a shot against Frank Shamrock. He would fight valiantly but eventually tired and would lose the bout late in the fourth round.
When Shamrock retired after the fight, Ortiz fought and defeated Wanderlei Silva for the vacant belt. With the victory, "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" would begin his reign of terror in the division which included five consecutive title defenses as he became the face of the promotion.
When Ortiz refused to fight Chuck Liddell for the title, he was offered a fight against the older and wiser Randy Couture. Seemingly overconfident, he was outwrestled and literally spanked while losing the belt to "The Natural." With a fight against Liddell now unavoidable for the number one contender position, the Team Punishment fighter would face his fears and be knocked out by "The Iceman" early in the second round.
An incensed Ortiz proceeded to go on a five fight winning streak, earning big wins over Vitor Belfort, Forrest Griffin and two against an aging Ken Shamrock along the way to earn one more shot at Liddell's belt. He put up a great fight and stood toe to toe with the champ for over two rounds but again would be stopped by punches, this time in the third.
This began a horrible stretch for the former champion, where he would suffer a series of injuries and proceeded to go 0-3-1 over the next four years. His name seemingly tarnished, Ortiz was given one last opportunity against top light heavyweight prospect Ryan Bader at UFC 132 and he stepped up in a big way, hearkening back to his old school style, he dropped Bader and proceeded to force a tapout in less than two minutes.
Ortiz tried to keep his momentum rolling against Rashad Evans at UFC 133, just one month later, but would be overwhelmed and would lose via second round TKO. The same thing happened in his next fight against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, getting stopped via strikes in the first round.
Now, Tito is back for one final bout before he calls it a career.
How he gets it done: Ortiz seems to have put a serious effort into his striking with his last couple fights, but if he wants to win this bout, he needs to go back to his bread and butter which is his wrestling.
If you see Tito standing with Griffin, it'll be most likely used to set up takedowns, as he's progressed in that department well enough that he can at least hold his own long enough to potentially create a weakness.
"The People's Champ" is a huge light heavyweight and if he can duck a Griffin hook and get deep on a double leg or if he can catch a kick, he should be powerful enough to put the TUF 1 winner on the canvas and keep him there. If he can create some space, Ortiz needs to immediately drop some big elbows and try to hurt his his opponent as much as possible with attacks on the ground.
If Ortiz can't put Griffin on his back, he could try to utilize the clinch to wear on him and either tire him out or work some dirty boxing and punish him with short knees to the legs and body. In all honesty though, if he can't score a takedown, he's going to be in some trouble.
Record: 18-7 overall, 8-5 in the UFC
How he got here: After a moderately successful start to his mixed martial arts career, Forrest Griffin was ready to call it quits at 25 years old with a 9-2 record before being talked into participating on season one of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) by Dana White, himself.
As the legend goes, Griffin would go on to make it to the finals, culminating in a wild back-and-forth slugfest against Stephan Bonnar that is widely considered the greatest fight in UFC history. Griffin won the six figure contract and after a few warm-up fights, was given a tremendous test against former UFC champion Tito Ortiz.
Griffin would lose a split decision to "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" but his performance in the final two rounds proved that he belonged with the best in the world. After stumbling to Keith Jardine at UFC 66, Griffin began a title run. He would score what was then the biggest victory of his career, upsetting the heavily-favorite "Shogun" Rua at UFC 76 with a third round rear naked choke which awarded him a title shot.
After an arduous season of The Ultimate Fighter, he would prove up to the task, defeating Quinton "Rampage" Jackson via unanimous decision to become the UFC light heavyweight champion.
Griffin's reign would not be long, getting snuffed by Rashad Evans in his first defense just five months later after slipping in the third round. He would take an ill-advised return fight against UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva, getting humiliated with three knockdowns and hardly even landing a jab in just over three minutes before the fight was stopped.
Since that loss, the scrappy Georga native has bounced back, avenging his loss to Tito Ortiz and following it up with a safe decision victory over Rich Franklin this past February. When the UFC came calling with a rematch against Rua in Brazil, he reluctantly accepted but was destroyed in short order by "Shogun" via first round knockout.
Now, he's ready to settle the score with Ortiz and send him packing with a loss.
How he gets it done: Conditioning is key for Griffin to defeat Ortiz again. It was the killer for Ortiz in the first two fights and it was definitely the biggest factor for Griffin winning the rematch back in 2009.
Tito Ortiz is good for about one round of hard-fought action. In that first round, he can take Griffin down, he can ground and pound and he can drop elbows. If Griffin can weather that first round storm, then Ortiz is toast.
The goal for Griffin is to put Ortiz in situations where he has to exert himself more than usual. If he can wear Ortiz down by stuffing a takedown or two or really making "The People's Champion" work hard to keep him on his back, then that will make both the second and third rounds that much easier.
Once Ortiz slows, that's when Griffin needs to turn it up, the more one-sided the better. He battered the Team Punishment fighter badly in the third round back in 2009 and he can definitely do that again.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight has to be that Tito Ortiz has absolutely nothing to lose. He has no next fight, nothing left to save himself for. He has no excuse not to leave everything he possibly has left inside the Octagon. If there was ever a fight where Ortiz could be a killer and a finisher in the first round, this could be it. "The People's Champion" is going to be full of emotion when the fight begins and if he can channel that, he could pull another "Ryan Bader."
Bottom Line: While both men's careers are winding down, this should still be a good fight. Both Ortiz and Griffin put on solid fights in their prior two bouts against each other. I expect nothing less this time around. Both men are going to leave it all on the line and they have no excuse not to give it everything they've got. This should be a good one.
Who will come out on top at UFC 148? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!