Tito Ortiz returns from his 18-month layoff and back surgery to try and grab his first win since Ken Shamrock in 2006, fighting Forrest Griffin in a rematch from UFC 59.
Griffin is typically a major fan favorite, although his recent losses (and postfight behavior) have raised some questions. Ortiz will always have detractors due to his attitude, but he's a better fighter than some people like to admit. His biggest obstacle will possibly be cage rust, stamina or his back. Even if he's fully healed, people don't always move the same after a surgery of that nature, particularly people who fight or grapple for a living.
Griffin is entering the arena to Chumbawamba. I guess Anderson Silva must have knocked him all the way back to 1998. Ortiz has gone back to "Mosh" by Eminem for his entrance music.
Round 1: Griffin lands a few close jabs. Ortiz misses on an exchange. Griffin head kick is blocked. Ortiz head kick is also blocked. Inside leg kick by Ortiz. Ortiz lands a jab and Griffin misses an overhand right counter. Ortiz takes Griffin down and starts grounding and pounding from Griffin's guard. Ortiz with punches to the ribs and jaw. Griffin takes a kimura and uses it to try and sweep. Griffin gets to his feet with his back to the fence. Ortiz with a knee to the ribs from a body lock. Griffin with a knee to the body. They separate and square off. Outside leg kick by Griffin but the follow-up haymaker misses. Griffin gets the better of an exchange. Ortiz with a takedown shot, but Griffin defends it. Ortiz checks a kick. Griffin uses a leg kick to try and set up a boxing combo, but Ortiz has it well scouted. teep kick by Griffin. The round ends, and it's close, but I'd probably call it 10-9 Ortiz based on the takedown and the damage he did with ground and pound.
Round 2: Griffin lands a fist and Ortiz answers with one that staggers an off-balance Griffin. Griffin throws the outside leg kick, but Ortiz was waiting for it. He catches the leg and takes Griffin down. Griffin takes guard and avoids any real damage from ground and pound before fighting his way to his feet. Ortiz with a jab, Griffin misses the counterpunch. Ortiz ducks a Superman punch, but Griffin lands a teep kick that actually hits Ortiz in the jaw. Griffin with a jab. Ortiz with a takedown, and Griffin nearly sweeps with the butterfly guard, but Ortiz keeps position. Ortiz with minimal ground and pound as Griffin is struggling to escape. Griffin is bleeding underneath both eyes, on his cheekbones. Tons of blood. Griffin reverses to Ortiz's half guard and throws elbows to the jaw and fists to the ribs. The round ends, and it's 10-9 Ortiz, but still close. Either round could probably be scored for either guy at this point, but I think Ortiz is doing the most damage.
Round 3: Griffin goes back to the leg kicks again. Griffin with a boxing combo, but Ortiz blocks the punches. Griffin is very actively throwing, but not really doing much damage as Ortiz looks to be preserving his energy right now. Griffin tags Ortiz with a right hook and a kick that gets blocked. Leg kick by Griffin. Griffin with the fists-and-feet combo again but every shot is either dodged or blocked by Ortiz. Ortiz tries for a takedown, but Griffin stuffs it. Griffin with fists up the middle that connect. Griffin tags him with a good jab. High kick by Griffin is blocked, but Griffin nails him with a follow-up fist. Ortiz seems to be gassed, and in defense mode right now. Leg kick by Griffin. Ortiz finally puts a combo together without anything serious landing. Griffin with a fist-leg kick combo that connects. Ortiz with a takedown attempt that is blocked, followed by a leg kick of his own. Griffin with a right hand. Ortiz's hands look really heavy. The round ends, and it's clearly 10-9 Griffin. My scorecard has Ortiz winning 29-28, but with the first two rounds being close, I could see Griffin winning, possibly all three rounds.
Winner: Forrest Griffin defeats Tito Ortiz via split decision (28-29, 30-27, 29-28) after three rounds.
Griffin told Joe Rogan after the fight that this is a great win for him, and that in his last fight, Anderson Silva "broke me." He also said you could tell Tito was a guy that was coming off back surgery and was prepared to fight Mark Coleman -- "no offense" -- and that he'd like to have a rubber fight with Ortiz at some point.
Ortiz said he came into the fight unable to spar much at all due to a bulging disc in his back -- yes, the same back he just had repaired. The crowd booed, as they usually do when losing fighters discuss the injuries they bring into the cage. Ortiz lost his cool, taking off his hat and pointing to the black eye he also wore into the cage tonight. He told the crowd he'd like to see anyone fight with a cracked skull like he did, and that he never backs out of a fight even when he's injured. Griffin grabbed the mic and backed him up, telling the crowd that it turns out that when you train to fight somebody, you often get hurt. Everybody chilled out once Griffin stepped in, but they weren't buying it from Ortiz, for some reason.
All in all, Ortiz still has some questions to answer regarding the durability of his back, especially if he's still dealing with bulging discs. After an 18-month layoff, it's hard to fault the guy too much for gassing in Round 3, but it's also fair to point out that he needs to correct that problem if he's going to keep fighting at this level.
As for Griffin, he desperately needed this win, which probably helped restore his confidence and some of the faith fans might have lost in him over the past 12 months.