Is Tito Ortiz ready for an encore?
Ortiz’s recent performances displayed a fighter far removed from the kind of dominating, aggressive cage-wrestling he used to great success early on; he blamed back issues, corrected by a new and less invasive surgery. But even if Ortiz reverts to old form, he’ll be a 2002 fighter in 2009: up against athletes who can stuff his takedown, shut him down on the ground, and pester him standing. Aggressive wrestlers will always have a chance -- even fresh off the college mat -- but it’s not as good a guarantee as it used to be.
Can Forrest Griffin handle another loss?
Batterings against Rashad Evans and Anderson Silva puts Griffin on track to suffer a third consecutive defeat vs. Ortiz Saturday. While his popularity and “Ultimate Fighter 1” finale cred probably guarantee him permanent employment in the UFC, he does not strike as the type who will take a run of misfortune with grace. Whether that statistic influences his performance against Ortiz, forcing him to fight more conservatively, is one for the wrap-up.
Can Phil Baroni pull it together?
Despite being difficult to take down, heavy-handed, and sporting the ring temperament of a rabies victim, Phi Baroni sports a 13-11 record. Depending on which fights of his you’ve seen, he appears either tougher than you expect or weaker than advertised. Fighting a capable Amir Sadollah will help determine whether being “at home” in the UFC’s 170 lb. division is going to make a difference -- or whether Baroni and Frank Trigg are on course to give each other an exit interview.
Can Karo Parisyan overcome himself?
Parisyan, probably the most macho-strapping fighter in the sport today, blames anxiety issues for flat performances. His last, vs. Dong Hyun Kim, was erased when he was pinned for painkiller use. Having a mind congested with these issues when Dustin Hazelett is looking to make your ankle touch your ear is not proper, which may be part of the reason he made an unexpected exit from the event on Thursday. Parisyan, only 27 despite his decade of experience, needed a strong performance to mute the negative voices -- both in and out of his head. He won’t get that chance.
Will Antonio Rogerio Nogueira welcome success?
Long a fixture of the Japanese circuit, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira has all the tools necessary to become a legitimate light-heavyweight contender -- which would place him directly in the sights of associate Lyoto Machida. MMA is not chess, and a punch to the face is not as subdued a move as taking a rook. Nogueira’s success could come with a heavy tax.