Well kids, aside from a few tense seconds Saturday night, Rashad Evans moved past Tito Ortiz handily, stopping him with some brutal body work in the second round and moving on to his date with the champ, any champ, whenever said champ is ready to fight him.
Left behind is the guy that was the face of the UFC for years, who was able to enjoy being back in the win column for all of five weeks before being relegated to the losers’ heap. Tito Ortiz made a great effort, but he ran into a younger, faster, more explosive version of himself, and he came up short. So how does Tito go on from here?
Well, not that anyone asked us, but we thought we might throw out a few ideas to get Tito back in the cage. First, keep in mind our theory that anyone who needs a fight at 205 or at 185 can be slotted against Chael Sonnen for maximum pre-fight hilarity; obviously that still holds true here. Of course, that would almost make Sonnen’s job too easy, and his talents are best utilized elsewhere.
Come on in past the jump and find our not-quite-serious list of five fights that Tito could get next, then share your own wisdom in the comments. We realize that “wisdom” is probably giving you people more credit than you’re due, but it’s Monday: the bar is set really low.
Let’s Get Psycho — Stephan Bonnar
Matching up Stephan Bonnar probably keeps Joe Silva awake at night. Ever since being one half of the Brawl of the Century, Bonnar has been hugely popular — but unable to carve out a slot for himself in the top of the division. Pulling out of a planned bout with Karlos Vemola on the next Versus card has delayed his return, but when he recovers, it wouldn’t be a bad scrap for either of them. We all know that Tito is going to need some time to heal whatever injuries he sustained against Rashad anyway. While “title implications” probably isn’t a phrase that comes to mind with these two fighting, Bonnar-Ortiz on a poster will move tickets.
Goodnight, and Good Luck — Phil Davis
This fight would be less about Tito, and more about finding out just how wonderful Mr Davis really is. Davis was supposed to be the one fighting Evans this weekend, and it would have told us a great deal about Mr Wonderful. No such luck: Davis pulled out with a bum knee, and we still need to find out if Davis is a top five ninja or just another contender. Tito should serve just fine to evaluate Davis’ standing in the light heavyweight division; he still has the star power and the ranking to boost someone up toward contention, so expect his next fight to be against a young up and comer like Davis.
A Franklin – Ortiz matchup would be pivotal for both fighters, who both seem to float around the middle of the 205 top ten. Franklin has been alternating wins and losses for the past three years fighting the top names in the division, and he just missed out on a fight with Little Nog. Franklin needs a big name opponent, and Ortiz would be the perfect fit — the name recognition alone would justify the bout as a PPV co-main event. Whoever wins would establish themselves as a permanent player in the championship picture, even if that wouldn’t necessarily include a title shot right away. The loser would begin the slide to the 10-15 area of the division rankings.
Speaking of sliding … if Zuffa believes that Tito is on his way out for good, expect them to match him up with someone lower on the totem pole with the unspoken understanding that he’s once again fighting for his career. The Janitor would be just the kind of tough customer who could dust it up with Ortiz and go into deep water with him. This is not a likely scenario, considering Ortiz’s resurging popularity in the lead up to the Evans fight; Tito still has the charisma and the name recognition to pull in viewers when he’s on the card. Tito would probably have to crash Dana’s car or be denied a fight license for cooties before Zuffa would be ready to throw him away, though, so don’t look for this kind of match up soon.
Once More For Old Times’ Sake — Chuck Liddell
You know Chocolate Al is just itching to fight Ortiz — just check the video of him in the crowd when Tito beat Bader. While he is no doubt enjoying his new position doing whatever it is he does for Zuffa, Liddell was unhappy retiring off a loss, and the thought of Ortiz still competing (and even being mentioned in the same sentence as the phrase “title shot”) probably eats at Chuck in the wee hours in the morning. Will this happen? No, not ever. If there’s one person that would hate for Chuck to lose to Tito more than Chuck himself, it would be Dana. If the UFC ever did retirement matches the way many Japanese stars do, though, this should be it.