MMA Uncensored Live
welcomes a very special guest to the studio this Thursday, as former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion and UFC Hall of Famer Tito Ortiz stops by. He'll join the conversation on the current state of the 205-pound division. The recently retired Ortiz is certainly familiar with the division's elite, having fought former champs in six of his final nine fights. In his storied 28-fight career, Ortiz fought 27 times in the Octagon and defended the light heavyweight belt five-consecutive times, both UFC records.
Ortiz's career had its fair share of ups and downs and, much like his explosive personality, was rather unpredictable. His trademark flame trunks, brash attitude, and savage ground and pound turned him into one of the sport's first mainstream stars. Win, lose or draw, Ortiz consistently found himself in compelling and monumental fights. We'll focus on the high points and relive the best moments of his illustrious career. Don't miss Ortiz on MMA Uncensored Live
this Thursday at 11/10c.
A Rivalry Born
Ortiz's win over Guy Mezger at UFC 19 was as instantly critical as it was long term. A steady dose of ground and pound forced John McCarthy to halt the bout and award Ortiz the TKO win. It extended his record to 4-1 and avenged the sole loss of his early career. Then the real fun started.
A fired up Ortiz gave Mezger's corner double fingers and proceeded to put on one of his many memorable custom t-shirts. This one, much to the chagrin of Ken Shamrock, read "Guy Mezger is my bitch." Shamrock (shockingly) lost his temper and stood up on a stool, leaned over the top of the Octagon, stuck a finger in Ortiz's face, and jawed at him until McCarthy stepped in and lifted Ortiz to the far corner. It was the beginning of one of the most significant feuds in UFC history.
Record Setting Run
After the Mezger fight, Ortiz fell short in a highly entertaining scrap against Frank Shamrock
. Though Ortiz controlled the first three rounds, his conditioning betrayed him in the fourth and he was stopped. It was a turning point for the young Ortiz, who ramped up his training and transformed into a cardio machine.
A five-round decision win over Wanderlei Silva earned Ortiz UFC gold. He would defend the belt a record five-consecutive times with three wins coming in the first round, including the famous slam knockout
against the late Evan Tanner. Four title defenses in, Ortiz was a legit star. His flashy entrances were followed by dominating performances; he was seemingly untouchable. It was the perfect time to embrace the biggest grudge match in the UFC's first decade.
The Art of The Grudge Match
The Ortiz/Shamrock feud couldn't have picked a better time to escalate. The two finally met in November 2002, less than two years after Zuffa acquired the UFC. The veteran Shamrock was returning from a stint in the WWF, the young champion Ortiz was manhandling everyone in front of him, and the two despised each other. Weeks leading up to the fight were filled with persistent trash talk, including perhaps the greatest one-liner of all time when Shamrock told Ortiz he was going to "beat him into the living death." Equally, if not more, important was the mainstream news coverage surrounding the pair. This wasn't just another fight.
Despite fight odds being incredibly close, Ortiz dominated most of the action. He took Shamrock down at will and battered him on the ground throughout the second and third rounds. Shamrock showed tremendous heart throughout and managed to scramble to his feet, no matter how much punishment he took. The contest was stopped at the end of the third and the sold out MGM Grand – an unreal feat for the UFC at the time – roared with approval. Between a then-record setting gate and tripling the average pay-per-view buy rate, UFC 40 in many eyes saved Zuffa from bankruptcy and went down as a historical event.
The pair would meet two more times, with Ortiz completely outclassing Shamrock and finishing him in the first round
of both fights. It was equal parts shocking and fitting that the two embraced following their third fight. The pair had entertained fans and made plenty of money together, breaking gate, PPV and TV records, and writing the book on MMA grudge matches in the process.
In With The New
Before Ortiz fought Shamrock for the second time, he was matched up with TUF 1 winner Forrest Griffin. Since edging out Stephan Bonnar in the memorable light heavyweight finale, Griffin had posted a 2-0 record with both wins coming in the first round. Ortiz, however, was a huge leap in competition for the still green Griffin, and the former world champion was expected to dominate. The opening round played out accordingly, with Ortiz taking down Griffin at will, smashing him with elbows, and unmistakably taking the round.
The momentum would shift from there, as Griffin stopped the bulk of Ortiz's takedowns and out struck him on the feet in rounds two and three. After the final bell sounded, a drained Ortiz awaited the decision while a fired up Griffin proceeded to drill sprawls and screamed his desire for rounds four and five. The erratic scores – 30-27, 28-29, 29-27 – gave the split decision win to Ortiz. The fight could be described as just about everything from razor close to a total robbery, but more importantly it was 15 minutes of two fighters not holding back a single ounce of energy. It was a turning point for both fighters, and a sign that Ortiz's tried and true trademark style would struggle against the new wave of fighters.
The Final Grave Is Dug
To say that Ortiz entered his July 2011 fight against Ryan Bader with his back against the wall would be an understatement. Ortiz was winless in his last five outings, a career worst streak. The fight was absolutely, positively, for real this time, the last of his UFC career should he lose. That seemed all but guaranteed, as TUF 8 winner Bader had just been handed his first professional defeat – a submission loss to future champ Jon Jones
– and was the younger, stronger, hungrier fighter. Ortiz was a big name who would raise the once-beaten prospect's stock. There was just one problem: Ortiz wasn't quite ready for a swan song.
"The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" cracked Bader early with a short right hand to the jaw and followed up with more shots, before snatching the neck and introducing Bader to his vise-grip. Trapped in a tight arm-in guillotine, Bader tapped out
just 1:56 into the contest. An elated Ortiz had just overcome 5:1 odds and jumped into his customary gravedigger routine. It was a beautifully bizarre sight, initially perplexing as the celebration hadn't been witnessed since 2006. The win would be the last of Ortiz's 15-year career. Though he left the sport on a three-fight losing streak, that magical July night and upset of the year performance will not be soon forgot.
Don't miss Tito Ortiz on MMA Uncensored Live
, Thursday at 11/10c.Image: Al Powers /Zuffa LLC /Getty Images