August, 5, 2011
By Chuck Mindenhall
Ed Mulholland for ESPN.comGetting closer: Saturday can't come soon enough for Rashad Evans, left, and Tito Ortiz.PHILADELPHIA -- In case you haven’t heard, Tito Ortiz has won a single fight in five years and Rashad Evans hasn’t stepped in the cage in a year and a half. These work as story lines heading into their rematch from a 2007 draw. It’s a lot of question marks to run through in prospect. Optimists are saying Ortiz, analysts contend it’s Evans, while realists are cautioning everyone that this could be a colossally boring main event. Somebody’s right, and it’s going down -- the two meet (again) in Philadelphia, maybe to establish a No. 1 contender (which Evans is already).
For Ortiz it’s a resurrection tour he’s taking through Ryan Bader and now Evans. The greatest thing he has going for him? Confidence. He fought a month ago and the new Ortiz looked like the old Ortiz. His fans have slinked back out from their holding tanks, just in time for him to crash back into relevance. What would a win do for him? It’s so preposterous it’s hard to write … but, potentially earn him a shot against the Jon Jones/Quinton Jackson winner. If you’d said that before his fight with Bader, people would have thought you just came from the booby hatch.
Nobody saw this trajectory.
For Evans? It’s a gamble. The good news is the dealer is showing a six and he has 19, so he’s in a superior position. The bad news is we’ve seen fights on short notice plenty before where the sizable underdog comes through. Charlie Brenneman did it to Rick Story, Melvin Guillard did it to Evan Dunham, Dustin Poirier did it to Josh Grispi, Keith Jardine did it to Gegard Mousasi (ahem) and so on. The point is, when guys are asked to step up and take a high-profile fight from whatever place of counted-out anonymity they’re in, they hold their own as often as not. This fight has a little bit of that going on.
Ortiz isn’t coming from an anonymous place, but he is coming back from injuries, doubt and obsolescence. Imagine the scene if he beats Evans. It will be pandemonium.
Booked to win
Ed Mulholland for ESPN.comTito Ortiz would be happy to know matchmaker Sean Shelby didn't book him to be trampled on.
Speaking to Strikeforce/UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby last night, he pointed out that, when creating a title fight, he has the champion’s fall in mind. “I’m only interested in the guy who will beat the champion” he said.
In other words, no soft lobs in the UFC, which is one of the distinguishing factors on how business is done in Zuffa versus how it’s done in boxing.
Ed Mulholland for ESPN.comIn his corner: Trainer Greg Jackson hasn't given up on Andrei Arlovski, right, just yet.
Greg Jackson won’t be with Brendan Schaub or any other fighter in Rio de Janeiro for UFC 134. Why? Because he will be in Hawaii, cornering the man he intends to resurrect -- Andrei Arlovski. Arlovski fights on the same night (Aug. 27) in ProElite’s newly rebooted model. The chants of Arlovski being a shot fighter have gotten to Jackson, who says he intends to prove all reports of his demise premature. His opponent, Ray Lopez, isn’t exactly household name…but he’s a place to start.
Ed Mulholland for ESPN.comGuard down, mike up: Rashad Evans let his true feelings be known at the final news conference.
At yesterday’s news conference, everyone was professional and gentlemanly. But you know who gets the “emphasis on hammering home a point” award? Rashad Evans. Check out how he handled a question about who has the most to lose in his fight with Ortiz:
“The truth of the matter, what it comes down to no matter what happens after this fight, the bare essentials comes down to this right here: Neither of us wants to lose to the other person.”
That’s bottom line stuff.
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