Monday, August 1, 2011 Updated: August 2, 11:52 AM ET
ESPN.com MMA awards for July
By Brett Okamoto ESPN.com
Tito Ortiz.Tito Ortiz wasn't supposed to have a job past July 2. Few among us didn't watch him bounce to the Octagon at UFC 132 not thinking, "Soak this in. Last time we'll ever see Tito make the walk." When he landed the straight right and Ryan Bader went down, it wasn't the loudest arena I've ever been in, but the energy level was pretty wild. Even if you despise Ortiz, you can't boo a story like this. I'm not the guy to plaster "Tito's Back!" on my Twitter account, but it's August and he's still here -- which is more than most of us expected.
Paul Daley. Watching live, I was incredibly disappointed by Paul Daley's performance against Tyron Woodley. After seeing it a second time, I have softened my stance on his effort but still see this as a big setback for the Brit. Daley now has lost back-to-back fights, one to a prospect with just eight professional bouts. The other was to a terrific opponent in Nick Diaz, but the fact that he was knocked out and beaten at his own game was a little staggering. Despite improvements, he remains awful off his back and was able to get off just 65 total strike attempts in 15 minutes versus Woodley. He might be occasionally exciting, but this recent loss likely proves once and for all he'll never be elite.
Carlos Condit def. Dong Hyun Kim at UFC 132. July was filled with candidates for knockout of the month. Carlos Condit gets the edge for a few reasons. I suspect the degree in knocking out Kim is extremely high. I wouldn't be surprised if three years go by without another finish over Stun Gun. It also adds to a ridiculously impressive stretch for Condit, which includes a one-punch KO over Dan Hardy and a gutsy comeback performance over Rory MacDonald. Condit versus B.J. Penn in October should be a tremendous fight, and depending on the outcome, I'm sold on Condit versus Georges St. Pierre as soon as possible.
Miesha Tate def. Marloes Coenen at Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson. You could not have scripted a better night for Miesha Tate. Looking to represent the sport of women's MMA in an uncertain time, Tate's four-round battle with Marloes Coenen more than held its own as the co-main event on a major card. Some expected Tate to win, but virtually none predicted it happening the way it did. After surviving multiple dangerous positions early on, Tate set up a shocking arm triangle in the fourth round, becoming the first opponent to submit Coenen in her 11-year career. Tate not only has the "it" factor to become the face of the sport, she's got the skills, too.
Dominick Cruz def. Urijah Faber at UFC 132. One of the best fights I've seen live. The pace of this one was insane. You sometimes hear fights being described as a "chess match," and this one certainly was that, as both guys struggled for momentum and had answers for everything the other did. Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber are so evenly matched. Stylistically, they're made to fight one another, and the mutual dislike only adds to the matchup. This was competition, man. At its finest. I don't want to get crazy, but it was reminiscent to some degree of historic boxing rivalries -- including Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier, in which neither fighter was willing to quit. If this fight had been scheduled for 10 rounds, both guys would have answered every bell's call.
Tito Oritz def. Ryan Bader at UFC 132. Tito Ortiz not only won his first fight in more than 1,700 days, but he did so by submission -- a feat you'd have to travel back to December 2000 to find. Going into the fight, I said to a friend, "His job is on the line. He appears FINALLY healthy. Maybe?" To which my buddy quickly replied, "You're a sucker." And I didn't argue. I laughed and told him he was right. Even when I tried to talk myself into an Ortiz win, I couldn't do it. He shocked me. And I bet he shocked you, too.
UFC 132. On paper, this was an outstanding event, and it delivered. Anthony Njokuani was brilliant. Brian Bowles advanced his comeback. The Rafael dos Anjos knockout was vicious. The Melvin Guillard knockout was even more so. Condit's flying knee. The Ortiz shocker. Wanderlei Silva's chin fails the Chris Leben test. And the best main event fight we've seen all year. Only shame was the reportedly low pay-per-view numbers, suggesting the casual fan hasn't bought into the little guys headlining just yet.
"It's God's will. As God would have it for me, that's what we'll do." -- Fedor Emelianenko, on his future following three straight losses. Not like we haven't heard this one before, but one has to wonder where Fedor Emelianenko goes from here. I didn't feel he would retire after losing to Antonio Silva and, oddly enough, I feel even stronger he won't this time, despite losing again to Dan Henderson. The question is, where will he fight? Continuing in Strikeforce would require productive talks between M-1 Global and Zuffa -- an uncertainty, even after all that's happened in the past two years.
Alistair Overeem ousted from Strikeforce. A strange story, still being fleshed out, as Strikeforce officials have by and large refrained from commenting publicly on the situation. Alistair Overeem's unwillingness to accept a Grand Prix fight against Antonio Silva on Sept. 10 was the basis of the feud. The fact that he then accepted a fight in October under the Netherlands-based promotion United Glory probably didn't help matters, although it was within the rights of his nonexclusive contract to do so. He exits the promotion having defended the heavyweight title just once, despite winning it way back in 2007.
Where will Nate Marquardt end up? Answer: BAMMA.Nate Marquardt is taking his talents to England. While multiple suitors looked to land the free agent, it was the British Association of Mixed Martial Arts that ultimately pulled the trigger on the former UFC middleweight. According to comments from BAMMA vice president Liam Fisher to ESPN.com, the deal for Marquardt was one of the most lucrative in the company's two-year history. The best potential fight in BAMMA for Marquardt will likely be at welterweight, against fellow banished UFC fighter Paul Daley. Whether he's willing to say it or not, Marquardt, who happens to be in his prime, has to be rating "Getting back in the UFC's good graces" near the top of his to-do list.
What's wrong with Fedor? Three theories exist. 1. Nothing. He fell into a trap set by a world-class grappler. He got beat up by a guy who severely outweighed him. And he got caught by a punch in a fight he was winning. Fight long enough, those things happen. He's still the best. 2. He's burned out. He hasn't evolved in past years, and his motivation is low after being the man for so long. He was once the best, but not now. 3. We're just seeing him for what he is. He never fought the best competition. He was never as great as everyone thought.
Tito Ortiz. Another big month ahead in MMA. Can't help but be intrigued by Ortiz stepping in on short notice at UFC 133. Will he win? He seems a long shot, but Rashad Evans is coming off a very long layoff and stylistically it's not the worst matchup for Ortiz. What if? Anderson Silva returns to action, and I'm expecting a solid effort with the fight taking place in Brazil. The Bellator featherweight tournament continues with what should be a fun one between Pat Curran and the highly touted Marlon Sandro. Plus, the UFC continues to negotiate.