UFC 140 preview: Ortiz vs. Nogueira
Tito Ortiz (16-9-1) vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (19-5)
After resurrecting his career earlier this year, Ortiz — "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" — will face off with former Pride mainstay Nogueira, twin brother of former UFC heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
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Ortiz, 36, was on the brink of retirement when he met Ryan Bader at UFC 132 in July. The former longtime UFC light heavyweight champion shocked everyone in attendance when he dropped Bader and submitted him with a tight guillotine choke in the opening stanza.
The Team Punishment founder snapped a winless skid that dated back to his TKO victory over Ken Shamrock in October 2006.
It's worth noting, however, that Ortiz turned in admirable performances in losing efforts against Lyoto Machida, Forrest Griffin and Rashad Evans.
After battling Evans to a draw in their July 2007 bout, a fight Ortiz would have won had he not been docked a point for grabbing the fence in the second round, Ortiz fought the top-ranked light heavyweight contender at UFC 133 in August. Ortiz had his moments, but he ultimately was dominated by Evans en route to a late second-round TKO stoppage.
A well-rounded submission grappler with experience competing on the Abu Dhabi Combat Club circuit, Ortiz is also a standout wrestler with exceptional size and strength for the 205-pound division.
If he fails to win — leaving him with just one win in his past eight matches — Ortiz once again may be on the verge of hanging it up for good. Stylistically, he's capable of holding up well with Nogueira in what could be a do-or-die fight for the former UFC poster boy.
Nogueira, 35, was a reputable force prior to entering the UFC with wins over the likes of Vladimir Matyushenko, Alistair Overeem and Dan Henderson.
Since debuting for UFC, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt has gone 2-2. After a destructive debut win over Luiz Cane at UFC 106, Nogueira has been less-than-stellar in his fights with Jason Brilz, Ryan Bader and Phil Davis.
Nogueira's weak link in all three fights was his inability to thwart takedowns. Ortiz has the tools to put Nogueira on his back, and his submission wrestling background will help him escape the revered Brazilian's dangerous submissions.
Nogueira surely has benefited from sharing the same training camp as his twin brother, who fights Frank Mir in the co-main event. With less wear and tear than his sibling, Nogueira still has a few good years left.
The fight itself likely will be a tooth-and-nail battle that goes back and forth. Nogueira's superior control on the mat and proficient boxing pedigree will give him a slight advantage, but Ortiz isn't one to fold easily. Still, Nogueira should get the better of most exchanges and stuff most of the Mexican-American's shots as the fight wears on to give him an edge on judges' scorecards.
Verdict: Nogueira via decision