UFC 133 all kicks off in Philadelphia this weekend with Rashad Evans and Tito Ortiz locking horns in the main event to decide the number one contender for the light heavyweight title.
In a rematch from their 2007 match, which ended in a controversial draw, both fighters will be aiming to set the record straight and move on to challenge the winner of the Jon Jones v Rampage Jackson title fight which takes place in Denver in September.
It’s been a long and winding road for Evans to get to this point. He has been the number one contender since May 2010 when he defeated Rampage Jackson by unanimous decision.
After the fight UFC President Dana White granted him his shot at the title against then champion Mauricio “Shogun’ Rua. Shogun was injured at the time and instead of taking a fight to keep himself sharp, Evans decided to wait it out. This would prove costly for the Ultimate Fighter 2 winner as weeks before the fight was due to take place Evans himself was injured in training. In stepped Evans’ training partner Jon Jones as a replacement and subsequently destroyed Shogun, making him the youngest Light Heavyweight Champion of all time at 23. A bitter war of words erupted between Evans and Jones soon after as the former best friends (who had vowed never to fight one another) and team mates at Greg Jackson’s training camp traded insults and threats via twitter. Evans left Jackson’s training camp in Albuquerque New Mexico soon after and criticised Jackson for bringing Jones into
their training camp. Jones revealed soon after that he too was carrying an injury from the Shogun fight and would be unable to defend his belt against Evans. The UFC then offered Evans a fight against rising star Phil Davis, which he accepted, until Davis also got injured in training and had to pull out. Running out of options at an alarming rate the UFC then offered the fight to Lyoto Machida, the only man to ever defeat Evans inside the Octagon, but he wanted superstar money to take the fight on short notice and was quickly taken out of the equation. This left only one man, the man who just weeks before pulled off one of the biggest upsets in recent UFC times…TITO ORTIZ.
Ortiz, who is one of the UFC’s early stars and former light heavyweight champion (he still holds the record for longest serving champion) had lost his last 5 fights in the UFC and his career was on the chopping block when he stepped into his bout with young gun Ryan Bader on July 2nd. A 4/1 underdog, Ortiz submitted Bader with a guillotine choke in the 1st round and quickly declared that he was back in the game.
Now Ortiz has stepped up to the plate to take this fight on short notice and a win over Evans this weekend will be a monstrous accomplishment for the old dog. On the other hand, a loss for Evans will be a devastating blow for his already frustrating career. But we will have to wait and watch UFC’s conundrum of a match.
In other fights this weekend Brazilian legend Vitor Belfort takes on Japanese powerhouse Yoshihiro Akiyama. Both fighters are coming off losses with Belfort succumbing to that lethal front kick by Anderson Silva in his last fight, whilst Akiyama has dropped two straight courtesy of Chris Leben and Michael Bisping.
Another UFC fight to watch out for is the welterweight match up between Mike Pyle and Rory Macdonald. Pyle is on a roll having recently defeated both Brazilian Ricardo Almeida and the hot up and coming Brit John Hathaway whilst Macdonald, who at 22 is one of the youngest fighters on the UFC books, will be looking to add another scalp to his resume after his complete destruction of Ultimate Fighter 5 winner Nate Diaz in April.
Rounding out the nights live card will be a middleweight battle between Jorge Rivera and Costantinos Philippou and a welterweight match up between Brian Ebersole and Dennis
Hallman, so make sure you watch UFC this coming weekend.
By Mickey Maguire