Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tito's last chance

For years, UFC fighter Tito Ortiz’s entrances have consisted of him walking from the locker room, to the octagon surrounded by his trainers and carrying an American flag. 

The moment he leaves the locker room, cheers and boos echo through out the crowd, while Eminem’s “Mosh” blasts through the speakers.

March 26 may be the last time fans get to see Ortiz’s entrance as he faces Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC Fight Night 24, which takes place at the Key Arena in Seattle.

UFC President Dana White has hinted at cutting Ortiz (15-8-1) from the promotion, after losing four of his five last fights.

 According to a November article on MMA Weekly, White said that he had thought he was going to cut Ortiz after his loss to Hamill until Ortiz told him he was not done fighting in the UFC.

“He asked me for one last chance, so I’m gonna do it,“ White said.  “This is definitely his last chance and he knows that too.”

Ortiz’s first stint with the UFC

Ortiz made his mixed martial arts debut in 1997, fighting in the UFC 13 Lightweight tournament as an alternate.  He lost to Guy Mezger in the finals of the tournament. 

Ortiz would continue to fight for the UFC.  Utilizing his wrestling ability and ground and pound, he would later avenge his loss against Mezger, and even win the UFC Light Heavyweight championship, successfully defend it five times.  He also would attain wins against fighters like Ken Shamrock, Wanderlei Silva, and Vitor Belfort.

Although he was one of UFC’s top stars, Ortiz was also suffering from a back injury, as well as personal problems between him and the UFC’s front office, mainly with UFC president Dana White.

Ortiz’s last fight was against Lyoto Machida in May 2008.  He would lose to Machida by unanimous decision.

Shortly after the loss to Machida, Ortiz said he would not be returning to the UFC. 

In an interview with MMA Weekly radio, Ortiz said his main reason for leaving the organization was due to treatment from the UFC president.

“He’s a monster and I am going to go elsewhere where they respect me,” Ortiz said.

Exile and return

After some time away from the UFC, Ortiz had back surgery.  He also began training in Brazilian Ju Jitsu.  Shortly after the birth of his tine sons, Ortiz said he had made amends with White in 2009, according to an interview with TapouT radio.  This eventually led to Ortiz being resigned by the UFC.

Ortiz’s opponent for his return bout was originally supposed to be against former heavyweight champion Mark Coleman.  Coleman withdrew due to injury, and was replaced by Forrest Griffin, a man Ortiz had beaten in 2006.  He ended up losing to Griffin by split decision.

Ortiz’s next fight would be against Matt Hamill, a man Ortiz had coached during the third season of the Ultimate Fighter reality tv series.  As with Griffin, Ortiz would lose the fight by decision.

Ortiz was scheduled to face longtime rival Chuck Liddell but had to pull out of the fight due to unknown reasons.

Lil’ Nog

Nogueira (19-4) is the twin brother of former UFC and PRIDE champion, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, a Brazilian fighter in the heavyweight division.  He is currently in the top ten light heavyweights in the world, according to the USA Today and SB Nation consensus rankings.

According to an interview with the National Post, Nogueira said he is preparing for what he believes will be a difficult fight.

“Tito’s ground and pound is very good and he is a really talented athlete,” Nogueira said.  “This should be a great fight for the fans.”

Although Ortiz is known for his head games, he said he is taking a different approach when it comes to Nogueira, due to the respect he has for the Brazilian fighter.

“Lil Nog is one of the best fighters in the world,” Ortiz said. He’s dangerous on the feet and on the ground. That’s why you won’t hear me talking any smack.”

White said that the fight against Nogueira would be the biggest fight in Ortiz’s career.

“Lil Nog is ranked in the top 10 and a win puts Tito back in the mix,” White said.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Battle of the Bulks

Strikeforce’s heavyweight tournament comes into fruition

The Strikeforce mixed martial arts promotion, will be holding an eight man heavyweight grand prix tournament throughout 2011.  

Scott Coker, CEO of Strikeforce, had announced the tournament in late 2010.  While there were skeptics of the announcement, due to Strikeforce’s prior announcement of a middleweight title tournament that actually never happened, the promotion is following through with their plans and have already announced the fighters competing in the tournament, and the dates for two of the four quarterfinal matches.

Who will be competing in the grand prix

The Strikeforce grand prix will feature former champions, as well as stars who are hoping to climb the ladder in the promotion’s heavyweight division.

According to the Strikeforce website, the first two quarter final matches will take place Feb. 12 at the Izon Center in Rutherford NJ.  One tournament match will feature Fedor Emelianenko, former Pride Heavyweight and 2004 Grand prix champion going up against Antonio Silva, former EliteXC heavyweight champion. 

Also featured on the Feb. 12 card will be Andrei Arlovski, former UFC heavyweight champion, versus Sergei Kharitonov.

The other two matches in the quarterfinals of the grand prix are Brett Rogers facing Josh Barnett, former UFC heavyweight champion. 

The date for this fight has yet to be announced.  Some speculate this match might not take place due to Barnett’s suspension for testing positive for Steroids back in 2009, as well as California Athletic State Commission’s denials of Barnett’s request for appeals, and Barnett’s no showing of the hearing of his application for a fight-license, according to MMA junkie.

The fourth match will be Fabricio Wedrum facing current Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem

Wedrum, who submitted Emelianenko back in June, defeated Overeem by submission at the Pride Open Weight Grand Prix back in 2006.

Special rules and positions implemented for tournament

Although Overeem is the promotion’s current heavyweight champion, according to an article in the Ringside report, his heavyweight championship will not be on the line during any point in the tournament. 

“To make it simple, the tournament champion will stand on his own,” Coker said.  “We will have our heavyweight champion, and our tournament champion.”

In addition to the main fights on the tournament bracket, Coker said that a fourth judge will be implemented for the grand prix, and a five-person fight committee who will select a reserve fighter in the case that a fighter who advances in the tournament gets injured before they can advance in the finals.

“This fighter will be chosen from a pool of fighters that will include the previous opponent and the winners of reserve matches,” Coker said.

What the tournament could do for Strikeforce

One benefit of this grand prix is that it gives Strikeforce a chance to showcase the talent in their heavyweight division. 

In addition to having experienced fighters like Emelianenko, Barnett, and Arlovski in the tournament, it also allows rising stars like Rogers, Wedrum, and Kharitonov to showcase their talents to the audience and promoters.  Reserve matches for the tournament could also be successful for the promotion.

There are some still some preparations Strikeforce will need to make if they want to promote the tournament in the right way.   One is drawing fans into the watching the tournament broadcast. 

While Strikeforce cards on Showtime have helped the promotion during their initial years, it may hurt the promotion if the UFC were to show events on Spike TV, or the Versus Network during the same time as Strikeforce cards that were featuring tournament matches.

According to MMA Junkie, Strikeforce: Babalu vs. Henderson drew in 465,000 viewers during its broadcast on Showtime, while the UFC’s Ultimate Fighter 12 finale drew in over 2 million viewers.  The highest Strikeforce watched event was Carano vs. Cyborg back in August 2009, with 576,000 viewers.

Regardless of how successful the heavyweight grand prix becomes, Coker has hinted  that Strikeforce will hold more tournaments in the future.

History of tournaments in MMA

Grand Prixs and other tournament have been a stable in mixed martial arts since the sport’s inception.  Tournaments are still held in promotions such as DREAM and the Bellator Fighting championships.

While the UFC has the Ultimate Fighter competition in tournament format, several of their early events were comprised of one night tournaments.  While the earliest tournaments were open weight, the organization began holding four-man tournaments in different weight classes in 1997. 

Many of the winners of these tournaments would go on to have long careers in mixed martial arts.  Some of the tournament winners include Royce Gracie (UFC 1, 2, and 4), Mark Coleman (UFC 10 and 11), Randy Couture (UFC 14 heavyweight), Dan Henderson (UFC middleweight), and Kazushi Sakuraba (UFC Japan).

Pride FC was known for holding a grand prix each year.  Among the list of winners include Coleman (2000 openweight), Maurcio Rua (2005 middleweight), Wanderlei Silva (2003 middleweight, and Mirko Filipovic (2006 openweight).

Strikeforce has held tournaments in the past.  They held a middleweight tournament back in 2007, and a women’s welterweight tournament back in August that was won by Meisha Tate.

Quick facts about the Strikeforce grand prix

  • Will take place during various Strikeforce events in 2011
  • Each match will be three, five-minute rounds, with the exception of the final tournament match.  This match will be five, five-minute rounds.
  • The eight fighters hold together a number of  13 mixed martial arts championships.
The tournament bracket, courtesy of the MMA news


Who would you like to see compete in a tournament?  

What weight would it be at, or would it be open weight?  

How many fighters?