A "Dragon" looks for his coming out party while a "Huntington Beach Bad Boy" looks to be the spoiler in this week’s edition of the Friday Night Throwdown.
In the second part of this three-part series, we will look at the other light heavyweight battle between Lyoto Machida and Tito Ortiz at UFC 84: "Ill Will" at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on May 24.
This fight could be the fight that could reshape the rankings of the light heavyweight division in the UFC and possibly send Ortiz riding off into the free agent sunset in search of his pot of golf at the end of the rainbow.
It’s time to breakdown this fight for both fighters.
Machida’s coming out party?
There is no question that Lyoto Machida is one of the most unorthodox fighters in the sport of mixed marital arts today. His style is more of a defense-first, counter-attacking in-and-out style, which throws off most if not of his opponents (he’s undefeated). He is very patient on the feet and waits for all of his opponents to make the first mistake. Once they do, he unleashes a great balance of kicking and striking that just frustrates anyone he faces.
The knock on Machida, up until his utter destruction of Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou at UFC 79: "Nemesis" in December 2007, was his inability to finish fights. He without question laid to rest that myth as he derailed the "African Assassin" hype train in quick fashion.
From the opening bell, Machida took the fight to Sokodjou and dominated the entire bout on the feet and on the ground. It was on the ground, however, where he just about put the Team Quest member to sleep via arm triangle. It’s because of that brilliant performance that he was given the chance to make a name for himself by fighting the popular, whether you like him or not, former champion in Ortiz.
Let’s not get it twisted here: Machida has beaten quality fighters during his undefeated streak. For example, he knocked out Rich Franklin and defeated others talented stars such as BJ Penn and Stephan Bonnar. Yet many The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) generation fans don’t know much about him unless they are diehard MMA fans. This fight with Ortiz could be the springboard that could launch Machida into stardom and easily in the top five in anyone’s light heavyweight rankings.
I would go as far and pick Machida over at least half of the fighters in the top 10, including the likes of Forrest Griffin, Wanderlei Silva, Keith Jardine and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. Of course, I’m going to catch some heat with that last statement but I stand by it. I would even be nervous for Rampage if he were to fight Machida.
Put simply, Machida has defeated several of the best fighters in the world during his reign of terror -- his record isn’t padded with journeymen or gatekeepers, folks.
In fact, he knocked out Franklin in only his third fight!
Machida is battle-tested and will be a significant player in the light heavyweight division for years to come. All he needs right now is the fight that will put him over the top. Enter a former UFC light heavyweight champion and easily of the biggest draws in MMA history.
Enter Tito Ortiz
A chance to stick it to Dana White and the UFC?
It’s no secret by now that this is Ortiz’s last fight on his current contract with the UFC. He’s also made it clear that he plans on leaving the UFC after this fight and explore his free agent options. Ortiz will clearly be the biggest free agent on the market and the UFC would be hard pressed to try and resign him. Therefore, Tito has to be thinking that if he’s going the leave, he’s going to leave with a bang.
And what better way to do that than defeat Lyoto Machida at UFC 84?
The problem that Ortiz will face is to try to take Machida to the ground. Machida is a fighter like I’ve said earlier, will let his opponent make the first mistake. Throughout his career, I’ve seen no big improvements in Tito’s overall game. He’s a one trick pony: take it to the ground and GNP (ground and pound) from there. His striking is still above average and isn’t going to knock anyone out anytime soon. I’ll give him the benefit of a doubt that he is one of better ground fighters in the world but it won’t mean a damn thing if he can’t take Machida down.
Ortiz will simply have to press the action and force Machida to the fence. From there, he will hopefully get the takedown and start to work on Machida. If that doesn’t happen, Ortiz will have no other choice but to try and get the best of Machida on the feet. That’s where his chances to win will diminish in a big way. Unless Ortiz has some tricks up his sleeve, Ortiz is the heavy underdog in this fight.
I won’t count out Ortiz in this fight even though it seems like he has no chance in hell of winning. Love him or hate him, Ortiz will at least make this fight exciting. He may be training as hard as he ever has in Big Bear as we speak … or being Jenna Jameson’s "Huntington Beach Boy Toy" at the club or something.
My theory is that Ortiz has to win this fight so that the price in signing him will have to be very substantial to leave the UFC. It’s clear that promotions like EliteXC or even Affliction will be chomping at the bit to sign him. Ortiz will have to bring his A-game in order for him to win. If he does, boy I can only imagine his post fight interview if he’s allowed on the mic … that’s must see TV right there!
Considering everything we covered, I’ve got to admit that this fight is the one I’m looking forward to the most. Machida is looking to get a shot at the belt while Ortiz will be looking to get paid. Who’s going to win this fight? Check out the site later in the month for my prediction on this fight. Either way, this could the upset special (hint…hint).
MMA news and other notes
Chris Leben gets 35 days in jail and fight with Bisping is off: It’s unfortunate that Leben was sentenced to 35 days in jail yesterday. After serving the sentence, it’s been reported right here that he would only have less than two weeks of training, which is just not enough time to prepare for a fighter like Bisping. But the man did his part to finish up his probation so that he could be cleared to fight Bisping.
The good news is maybe they could add this fight as the co-main event of UFC 86: "Jackson vs. Griffin." Unfortunately, since this fight was scheduled to be fought in London there is no way Bisping is being pulled from the card. In fact, we just learned that he's fighting Jason Day -- a very solid Canadian fighter. It's not Leben, but it could be worse.
The IFL "Hex:" I’m sorry but with the IFL revealing its new plan for a six-sided ring, I’ve officially considered the IFL to be as good as dead before the year is out. I was supporting the company for the sake of MMA, but this whole six-sided ring is too much. It only tells me that they probably think the UFC is the WWE and they’ll be TNA or something. I mean, I had no problem with a four sided ring for the IFL. But seriously six?! I don’t know how much more I can take with the IFL. Good as dead, folks.
The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) wasn’t that bad this week: Although I ripped this season of TUF, I must admit that I’m guilty as charged because I’m still watching it. And this week’s episode was by far the best one this season and it just wasn’t because of Jeremy May. I mean the whole, "I predict Matt Brown is going to win … by murder" prediction by Amir was down right hilarious. And how he finished off May as well, you might have thought it was downright murder.
But in all seriousness, Brown is some character but has to be considered one of the favorites to win the show. His attitude in the Octagon is the same attitude when he’s not in it, showing he’s determined to win at all costs. He did look lethargic the first couple minutes of the fight but as the fight wore on, he took total control. From there, he ended the fight with a beautiful head kick that would make even Gabriel Gonzaga happy. He’s all business and you have to feel sorry for whoever’s in his way in the semifinals.
My favorite part of the show was the Cramer-Zachrich fight to end this week’s episode. That fight wasn’t the most technical form of striking I’ve seen but it was just pure entertainment. These guys were swinging from the fences until they had nothing left. It was back and forth action that left me on the edge of my seat. In the end, Cramer took Zachrich down in the second round and won the fight via technical knockout (strikes) to give Team Rampage control of the next fight.
Best fight of the season by far and I’m definitely looking forward to next week. Couldn’t help but notice that we could see the blowup between Rampage and Forrest next week as well. Got to love when the coaches get angry and all hell breaks loose. Hopefully it puts the Ken-Tito confrontations to shame, but then again it’s just for entertainment purposes sometimes right?
That’s about it for this week’s edition of the Friday Night Throwdown here on MMAmania. Next week’s will be the third and final part of my three-part series on UFC 84. We’ll look at the main event between BJ Penn and Sean Sherk for the UFC Lightweight Title. Agree or disagree with anything I said in today’s column? Be sure to reply in our comments section below (and THANKS for all the responses last week, I was overwhelmed by the support!) or e-mail me at the address right here.