Tito Ortiz has a steep test in front of him in Rashad Evans. | Photo: Jeff Sherwood
Sherdog.com staff and contributors put their reputations on the line with bold predictions for the UFC 133 “Evans vs. Ortiz 2” main card, which airs live on pay-per-view at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT on Saturday from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
Rashad Evans vs. Tito Ortiz
Jordan Breen: Maybe it’s Evans’ polarizing personality or the fact he hasn’t fought in 15 months. Maybe it’s Ortiz’s win over Ryan Bader at UFC 132. Maybe it’s their 2007 draw. For whatever reason, people have convinced themselves Ortiz is a top-level light heavyweight again. Though still talented, the same injuries plague Ortiz, and he still has one round of cardio. People dwell on their first fight -- a controversial draw at UFC 73 -- but it bears mentioning that Evans would have won the fight outright if Ortiz had not grabbed the fence four times to prevent his takedowns in round two. This isn’t going to be pretty, but Evans will outbox Ortiz and get some flashy-but-meaningless takedowns en route to a decision. Paging Jon Jones.
Tomasz Marciniak: Evans will be fighting to buck the trend in this fight. Historically, fighters coming off 400-day or longer layoffs -- in his case it’s 433 -- performed dreadfully against recently active competition. With that said, fights are not decided on how much time you have taken since your last outing. Evans’ wrestling looked as good as ever in the fight against Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, as he cleanly took down one of the best defensive wrestlers in the sport. While Evans’ striking was still a work in progress the last time we saw him, he has blazing hand speed, and I expect him to effectively counter the kind of Ortiz punches that dropped Bader. Much like first time around, I think Ortiz will make this a tough fight but Evans has improved too much for that very same outcome to occur. He will be getting his hand raised after 15 minutes.
Brian Knapp: In professional sports, it’s difficult enough for an aging athlete to turn back the clock once. To ask him to do it twice, in a little more than a month no less, may be too steep a proposition. His stunning victory over Bader notwithstanding, Ortiz remains a shell of his former self from a physical standpoint. Injuries, wear and tear and the natural progression of time have all taken their toll on the 36-year-old. The younger, more gifted Evans establishes himself early this time, as he erases the memories of their 2007 draw and cruises to a unanimous decision.
Vitor Belfort vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama
Tristen Critchfield: As long as Belfort’s mind is right after his devastating loss to UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva, he should have the tools to control this bout. That Akiyama continues to receive such high-profile matchups given his recent performances is a little puzzling, but any kind of extended success from the ethnic Korean fighter could be a boon to the UFC. However, his judo-based style won’t be enough to offset the explosiveness of Belfort, particularly with the questionable conditioning he has shown in the past. Belfort rebounds and is able to finish this one with strikes.
Guilherme Pinheiro: I believe Akiyama is probably the second-most “hated” fighter by UFC management behind only Brazilian welterweight Paulo Thiago. My point is that the UFC hasn’t been easy on him. He has been put against upper-echelon fighters since coming to the organization. On top of that, it’s clear that he is smaller than his middleweight counterparts and probably should hit the treadmill on his way to the welterweight division, where he wouldn’t give up such a size advantage to his opponents. To make things worse, Akiyama is known for being willing to stand and trade. That didn’t work out well against Michael Bisping and shouldn’t work against Belfort, either. Provided that the Brazilian can mentally overcome his brutal knockout loss against Silva, I think he beats Akiyama by technical knockout in the second round.
Todd Martin: Akiyama’s heart and fighting spirit could be to his detriment in this bout. Akiyama is always willing to engage and trade, even when in trouble, and that’s the wrong philosophy to take with someone who has hands like Belfort. He needs to focus on getting Belfort down, grinding on him and taking away his spirit for the later stages of the fight. Instead, I see him trading strikes for a little too long and getting knocked out; Belfort via TKO in round two.
Dennis Hallman vs. Brian Ebersole
Pinheiro: This may end up being a fun fight, but I’d rather see Johny Hendricks-Mike Pierce on the main card. That being said, this is a very interesting battle of styles. Hallman is enjoying a resurgence late in his career that has him on the brink of more meaningful fights. For his part, Ebersole is coming off of a very surprising win against Chris Lytle. The key to this fight is the wrestling department. Hallman is better on the ground, and Ebersole will look to keep this on the feet. I see Hallman as the better wrestler. He takes down Ebersole and manages to submit him late in the second period.
Martin: These guys are in a lot of ways mirror images of each other. Both are crafty veterans with an unusual amount of experience and a particular expertise in submissions. Ebersole turned in a great performance in his last fight against Lytle, but I just think Hallman is better at the submission grappling game that this will turn into. Hallman is the pick.
Freddie DeFreitas: The “Hairrow” may be gone but the legend lives on in the Octagon, as Ebersole returns to meet the reinvigorated Hallman. I’m going out on a limb to say that, aside from a cartwheel kick from Ebersole and the odd Superman punch from “Superman,” this will predominantly be a grappling match, with Hallman on the bottom lobbing submissions and Ebersole on top avoiding them. I believe Ebersole stays out of trouble for the most part en route to the unanimous decision.
Jorge Rivera vs. Constantinos Philippou
Rob King: It pains me that this fight is on the pay-per-view portion of the card, as I don’t have much interest in it to be perfectly honest. These guys are ever going to be title challengers. The only thing saving this fight is the potential for a huge knockout. Rivera is really starting to show his age, and Philippou looked really good on the Ring of Combat scene. Give me Philippou to take home the victory with a late first-round knockout.
Lutfi Sariahmed: Now this is more along the lines of what we’d expect from Rivera. He’s been a journeyman middleweight for most of his career, and he’s made quite a career of it. He’s not in the realm of the tougher middleweights in this division. The Michael Bisping bout showed us the holes in his game, controversy aside. Still, these are the types of bouts that he wins. After a potential matchup with Alessio Sakara got scrapped for what seemed like the 45th time, Rivera takes on Philippou, who’s about as well known for his time in Ring of Combat as he is for his time on “The Ultimate Fighter.” Rivera is strong enough in the striking department to win this and maybe even finish it early.
Breen: It seems that the Rivera-Sakara bout is cursed and will fall apart whenever it is lined up. Maybe that’s for the better. With that said, Philippou is tough and scrappy but will likely be worn down by the gritty, workmanlike clinch game of the veteran Rivera. Rivera’s submission defense and chin are ever-present liabilities, but he has improved on the floor and is less of a target than he was early on. Expect a close, hard-fought decision, but given a full-training camp and a better-rounded striking game, Rivera should get his hand raised.
Mike Pyle vs. Rory MacDonald
Marciniak: Though Pyle surprisingly shut down John Hathaway’s wrestling 10 months ago, he was back to being taken down by Ricardo Almeida in a decision victory at UFC 128. Between these two, I think MacDonald’s wrestling stacks up pretty well, and he’s also a good enough striker to give Pyle problems on the feet. I think the Canadian outworks the veteran for a pretty clear decision.
Knapp: Is there a young up-and-coming welterweight in the UFC with more promise than MacDonald? I can’t find one. Blessed with the kind of physical tools and drive that make champions, the 22-year-old Canadian has a high ceiling to say the least. What’s more, he showed a tremendous amount of fortitude in rebounding from his heartbreaking, last-second loss to former WEC champion Carlos Condit, as he outhustled and outfought Nate Diaz at UFC 129. The often-overlooked and underestimated Pyle has experience and savvy on his side, and he will need every ounce of both and perhaps a little luck to deny MacDonald here. I just can’t see it happening. MacDonald wins by late finish or one-sided decision.
Critchfield: Pyle proved to be kryptonite for one up-and-coming prospect when he upset Hathaway at UFC 120. Meanwhile, MacDonald was 10 seconds away from beating Condit and rebounded with a strong showing in a win over Diaz, making him one of the welterweight division’s most promising talents. MacDonald has a significant edge in the standup, and he has enough ability to keep Pyle from making their fight a wrestling match. Pyle will likely score a few takedowns, but MacDonald gets up when he has to and takes the judges’ scorecards with his striking.
2011 Picking & Grinning Standings:
Jordan Breen: 104-43
Tomasz Marciniak: 103-44
Brian Knapp: 103-45
Tristen Critchfield: 101-46
Guilherme Pinheiro: 99-48
Todd Martin: 98-49
Freddie DeFreitas: 93-54
Rob King: 93-54
Tony Loiseleur: 92-55
Lutfi Sariahmed: 92-55