For a fight that was not supposed to rest atop the marquee, the rematch between former light heavyweight champions Tito Ortiz and Forrest Griffin at UFC 106 on Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas has drawn plenty of attention.
Ortiz, who has not posted a win inside the Octagon in more than three years, took a controversial split decision from Griffin at UFC 59 in April 2006. The defeat was Griffin's first in UFC but did little to slow the momentum he had built on Season 1 of "The Ultimate Fighter."
Now, they meet again.
Sherdog.com recently gathered predictions from a number of professional fighters and trainers to gauge how they think the UFC 106 centerpiece will play out.
Charlie Brenneman: Forrest will take this one. Ortiz will look to impose his will through takedowns and ground-and-pound, but ring rust and fatigue will be factors. Forrest may be down on the scorecards late in the fight, but I'm calling a third-round TKO for Griffin. He's hungrier than ever and will do nearly anything to erase the bad taste left from the Anderson Silva destruction.
Dewey Cooper: I like both guys in this matchup. My heart goes out to Forrest because of what he went through in the Anderson Silva fight. I just don't know if he has totally healed up psychologically from that fight. The first fight was very close between the two of them. I felt Forrest had pulled it out slightly. This time around, I feel it will be the same type of fight. Tito is a vet, so cage rust should not be a factor. If anything, the break from fighting should benefit him. I see a close fight -- either a draw, or Tito will get the nod. Whether it's deserved or not will be the question.
Mike Ciesnolevicz: I was out at the first fight live, and I felt Forrest got robbed and should have won the decision. However, after I rewatched the fight at home, I realized Tito did enough to pull out the win and the decision by the judges was correct. This time around, it will be a more interesting fight. Forrest is way more seasoned and has been fighting top-level competition, but I did see him get TKO'd by [Keith] Jardine, Rashad [Evans] and Anderson Silva. Tito is coming back from surgery, and I think almost two years out of the competitive game could be a big factor. But I think Tito is gonna use his wrestling and control and take Forrest to the mat to score points and big elbows. I don't think Tito will out-jiu-jitsu Forrest on the mat, but I do think he will beat him up with ground-and-pound and probably win by TKO in the second round, or, if it goes all three rounds, I see a unanimous decision.
Kit Cope: "Durability" is synonymous with "short career." In case you haven't noticed, the lights turn off a bit easier every time for Forrest. I'm not saying he's done. He's still a banger, which is exciting to watch, but Tito has a new fire under his ass, and though he may not knock Forrest out, that's still gotta be something in Griffin's head that may make him apprehensive. Tito wins this one by controlling Forrest and beating him to the punch or shot or position.
Patrick Cote: I'll go with Ortiz. He needs a big fight, and I don't know if Forrest will be able to bounce back from his last beating.
Scott Bieri: Layoffs, honeymoons, twin babies, surgeries and previous losses are a few things to consider in this fight. All due respect to a pioneer -- and a catalyst to the popularity of MMA -- but a year and a half layoff to an already under-evolved fighter is the biggest issue going in. It seems Tito would love to be bullying past-prime fighters into retirement [but] Forrest Griffin is not that guy. This is an excellent platform for Forrest to regain his confidence. Griffin [will be] in the driver's seat on the way to a unanimous decision win.
Ray Elbe: Forrest Griffin. No way he misses that super-sized dome piece.
Stephane Vigneault: I see Tito coming back stronger from his layoff. Forrest is in a bad moment of his career, I think. I see Tito winning a unanimous ground-and-pound decision.
Shamar Bailey: Given Forrest's improvements as a fighter, his growth in confidence and Tito's layoff since their first meeting, I don't see Forrest losing this one unless Tito can take Forrest down and inflict damage for extended lengths of time. I'm picking Forrest by decision.
Gabe Ruediger: Tito is coming off of a serious injury and over a year layoff. That's a long time to be away from the sport. Forrest may be coming off a loss, but he seems like the type that would use that as motivation. Tito will do what he always does -- strike a little bit and try for a takedown. Game planning for Tito is not rocket science, and Forrest should come in with the right strategy. I'm going with Forrest by decision.
Brad Pickett: I think this has the potential to be a great fight and think that the fans will be the winners.
Eddy Millis: Interesting fight, Tito and Griffin. So my prediction is going to be based on what I hope the outcome will be. I think if Tito comes in the way I believe he will, then he pummels Griffin by Round 2.
James Zikic: Tito will win on points.
Elvis Sinosic: Both guys need a victory. Desperation will make this an exciting match. Forrest is coming off some hard losses. Tito is coming off a long layoff after a serious injury and surgery and some long negotiations to get back into the UFC. The last fight was very close. Tito dominated the first round, and Forrest came back in the last two. The question is which will affect each fighter more. Will Forrest's recent losses have more of an effect, or will Tito's time off and surgery have the great effect? I think Tito's time off and his recent surgery is more likely to come into play. Forrest has lost recently, but he lost in the striking range to explosive, accurate fighters with KO power. This is not an issue with Tito. With Tito, Forrest will need to do his best to stay off his back, which, in turn, leads to Tito's situation. Tito needs to put Forrest on his back and punish him from the top position. Now, if Tito's back is 100 percent and he has the takedown ability from when he was in his prime and the cardio to go with it, Forrest will be in a lot of trouble, and I could see Tito winning a decision or even possibly a TKO, especially if he can keep up the pressure for three rounds. The problem is that I think his back injury and surgery will play a bigger part than Forrest's recent losses. Tito relies on his takedowns, and his back will not only need to be 100 percent, it will have needed to be 100 percent the entire lead-up to this fight. I think that Forrest will be able to keep Tito off. I don't think he'll get caught the same way he did in the first fight. He'll be able to pressure Tito and put him on the back foot. I see Forrest winning this fight via decision.
Jason Lambert: Forrest by TKO.
Robin Black: I like this fight. The last one was a great fight, and I thought Forrest won it. I think Forrest will win this one, too. Tito will probably be looking pretty scary in a fight or two, but I think a highly motivated Forrest Griffin is just gonna be too much for him for a first fight after a long layoff. Forrest is going to come in, have a good performance and welcome the keyboard warriors back on the bandwagon. Tito is going to go back to Big Bear and continue rebuilding for a run at the title. This fight is just too much, too soon for him.
Ryan White: This is going to be a great rematch, and no matter who wins, it's going to be one of the best fights of the year and will put the winner back on the ladder to the title.
Billy MacDonald: The winner of this one should be the fans. Tito, back to himself after nagging injuries, and what should be a very focused Forrest Griffin. Personally, I think Griffin comes in a little gun-shy, which will allow Tito to control the pace of Round 1. Forrest gets into the action a little more and starts to stand in the pocket with Tito, which should leave it even after two. Round 3 will begin with Forrest peppering Tito with jabs and leg kicks. Tito will shoot in on Forrest but won't be able to take him down. Forrest wins via decision, 29-28.
Jason Zorthian: Forrest via Round 1, angry redeeming knockout.
Jeff Monson: Griffin by decision.
Travis Lutter: I think Tito will win this one, but I think it will be fun to watch.
Ricardo Liborio: Forrest by decision.
Mike Whitehead: Forrest by decision.
Roland Sarria: Forrest will win a decision.
Zac George: Tito secures early takedown and a little ground-and-pound. Forrest wakes up at the end of the first and takes over. Forrest [wins a] decision, unless Tito tags Jenna [Jameson] in. Then [it will be] Jenna via armbar.
Mac Danzig: Seven years ago, I was coming off a decision loss in the WEC that was held in Connecticut. As if a five-hour plane ride back home after a disappointing loss wasn't miserable enough, Tito Ortiz was sitting directly in front of me. He had been wearing his UFC belt everywhere the entire weekend of the fight and was still wearing it in the airport and now on the plane ride home, too. He had to turn it backward to comfortably sit on the plane. He proceeded to tilt his seat back as far as it could possibly go. This left nothing in my forward vision except for a giant yellow head, not to mention the fact that his seat was basically in my lap, which was more than mildly uncomfortable. Over the course of the next five hours, I tried my best to sleep, but every time I opened my eyes, there was a huge sphere of yellow hairs with dark roots coming in no less than 12 inches from my face. I was bordered on the right by a window and on the left by Colin Oyama. Luckily for me, I was able to suppress this memory for quite some time, but after seeing that giant yellow head bounce around the ring a few times afterward, I'd get flashbacks. Rumor had it that just a few weeks earlier, Lee Murray soccer-kicked a giant yellow beach ball in a British pub. Forrest by TKO in Round 3.
Chris Weidman: I think Tito Ortiz by decision. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Forrest Griffin and what he has accomplished in his storied career. Tito has a new-found respect and passion for the sport and what it takes to be at the top. I think Tito has matured as a person and will avoid bad situations. He will avoid standing up and take it to the ground to grind out a three-round victory.
Pros that picked Griffin: 17
Pros that picked Ortiz: 9
Pros that could not decide: 2
Mike Sloan is a contributor to Sherdog.com.