Ladies and gentlemen, Tito Ortiz IS BACK!
Well, sort of.
The former UFC light heavyweight champion registered his first win under the Bellator banner -- and just his second in nearly eight years -- by choking out the promotion's middleweight champion, Alexander Shlemenko, on the main card of the Bellator 120 pay-per-view (PPV) event last Sat. night (May 17, 2014) in Southaven, Mississippi.
Click here for our post-fight recap.
Following his submission win, Ortiz (17-11) gave "Storm" his patented post-fight burial, doing the air shovel (think air guitar for morticians) and jumped around like he'd just won the lottery. I guess for him, he kinda did, since most fans expected him to fold up and get stored under Bjorn Rebney's bed like the Total Gym.
Looks like "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" had the last laugh.
"I have three fights left on my contract with Bellator," Ortiz said during the post-fight press conference (watch it here). "I want to fulfill those and be the world champion when I retire. I want to continue fighting until my body says 'okay, it's time to stop.'"
His body has been telling him that for quite some time, actually, but he's just choosing to ignore it.
To start talking about word titles after a win over Shlemenko leads me to wonder aloud if weathering the "Storm" has left Ortiz with a false sense of security. While he was a heavy underdog coming into last weekend's fight, he essentially bullied an above-average striker with a below-average physique.
Have Shlemenko stand next to Bellator 170-pound champion Douglas Lima, and you may find it hard to argue the Russian is not a natural welterweight.
That brings us to the old bar-fight maxim that a good big man will always beat a good little man, which is why we have weight classes. I've heard rumblings that Ortiz vs. Shlemenko was fixed based on the outcome, but I don't believe that to be the case.
That's because the "fix" was in the matchmaking, not the result.
Whether or not Tito got his groove back while doing work in "The Magnolia State" is unclear. There's a very strong chance he simply abused a smaller guy who would have lit him up like a light heavyweight Lite-Brite, had Shlemenko been blessed with the physical tools required to do so.
It was power that was needed against Ortiz, not precision.
The self-proclaimed "People's Champion" has a new lease on his mixed martial arts (MMA) life and will graduate to bigger and better things within the division. That's by default, since he has yet to fight a light heavyweight under the Bellator banner.
I hear "King Mo" has nothing to do this summer...