Viewpoint: Chasing History

By Tristen Critchfield May 6, 2013
Had they both met in their prime, Would a Tito Ortiz-Jon Jones fight be competitive? Tell us below.



After a hectic month of April, things slowed down a little bit in the MMA world over the past week.

Sure, there was Costas Philippou’s withdrawal from the UFC on FX 8 co-headliner -- the second time in a month a cut has altered a significant fight -- but fans have grown numb to the endless array of injuries that ruin high-profile matchups.

Also, Eddie Alvarez took to Twitter to announce that he and Bellator -- his former employer -- would be going to trial, but a drawn-out ordeal between those two parties was already expected. Oh, and Chael Sonnen is not retiring just yet. Instead, the former middleweight and light heavyweight title challenger is hoping for a crack at Wanderlei Silva.

Some interesting and important tibits, to be sure, but nothing especially earth shattering, either. And really, everyone could probably use a breather before the news cycle heats up again. Still, it is nice to have Tito Ortiz around to stir the pot -- even if he is speaking with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

“Well, I may have to come out of retirement to beat [Jon Jones]. I can’t let [him] beat my record,” Ortiz tweeted on April 27, the same day Jones defended his 205-pound belt for the fifth time against Sonnen at UFC 159. The former “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” also defended the light heavyweight strap five times from Dec. 16, 2000 to Nov. 22, 2002.

Ortiz has been known to live in his own alternate reality from time to time, but the UFC Hall of Famer was [probably] just having a little bit of fun here. He admitted as much during a recent appearance on “The MMA Hour,” which is just as well: The Californian is just 1-7-1 in his last nine fights and appears to have settled comfortably into a career as a manager/promoter. A fight with Jones would be neither plausible nor competitive.

That said, Ortiz remains one of the pioneers of the sport, someone who understood what it meant to sell a fight. And before MMA evolved, the brash wrestler often backed up his talk with a relentless barrage of takedowns and ground-and-pound on fight night.

Sometime in 2013, possibly November, Jones will likely surpass Ortiz’s record of title defenses against a contender to be named later. Then, he might leave the division to pursue heavyweight bouts or a lucrative superfight against Anderson Silva.

Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

Ortiz's longest winning streak was six.
Ortiz never had such options. After stopping Ken Shamrock at UFC 40 in his fifth title defense, the Team Punishment member dropped a five-round decision to Randy Couture a little less than a year later. He would never wear gold again.

The fact that Jones already seems to be running out of challenges at 205 pounds -- either Alexander Gustafsson or a rematch with Lyoto Machida could be next -- suggests that he has already surpassed Ortiz.

While Ortiz has some nice wins on his resume, it still does not compare to what Jones has done in approximately two year’s time. Most would agree that either Sonnen or Vitor Belfort have been the least deserving title challengers during Jones’ reign, but both have credentials far beyond that of an Elvis Sinosic, who Ortiz bested in his third defense at UFC 32.

A head-to-head matchup of Jones vs. Ortiz, even in Ortiz’s prime, would not be competitive.

“Bones” has demolished one-dimensional wrestlers, and Ortiz would offer nothing else on the feet that would give the champion pause. This is not to diminish what Ortiz has accomplished -- he was a household name before MMA was in very many households. The fight game has simply changed, and Jones is currently the most shining example of that evolution.

Ortiz does not need to come out of retirement to be relevant. Hate him or love him, his contributions will not soon be forgotten -- even as his records are surpassed.

Here Comes a Another Challenger, Maybe

Back in August, Machida appeared to have earned another shot at Jones after a knockout of Ryan Bader at UFC on Fox 4. However, when Dan Henderson suffered a knee injury prior to his proposed meeting with Jones at UFC 151, “The Dragon” was unwilling to step in on short notice, and as a result, lost his place at the front of the line.

Fast forward to UFC 157, when the former titlist edged Henderson in yet another potential title eliminator bout. Now, with Jones on the mend from a gruesome toe injury, Machida has once again altered his course, asking for a matchup with fellow contender Alexander Gustafsson.

“I am interested in this fight, because I think it’s a good idea to put Gustafsson against me. He is the No. 2 contender, and I am the No. 1 contender. Let’s see what happens,” Machida recently told Fox Sports. “I would like to fight before I fight for the title, maybe, because I don’t want to wait for a long time. I need to fight.”

Machida’s willingness to risk his No. 1 contendership in order to stay active is refreshing, and possibly prudent. Having already lost to Jones once, the Brazilian recognizes the formidable challenge the Jackson’s MMA product presents, and that he should not rush into another bout with the champion.

Gustafsson, meanwhile, has long been targeted as the next most dangerous opponent for Jones, a fact which “Bones” acknowledged following UFC 159. Perhaps more than Machida, the Swede could still benefit from some more seasoning, especially after a cut forced him out of a showdown with Gegard Mousasi at UFC on Fuel TV 9.

Machida-Gustafsson makes sense, even at the risk of losing -- if “The Mauler” is defeated -- an intriguing new foe for Jones, who has nearly cleared out the division. Put the bout on a Fox card, perhaps on the Aug. 17 bill, which marks the debut of Fox Sports 1, and give Jones the winner late in 2013.

Health of all parties permitting, it is the best and next logical step for the light heavyweight division.

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