At the risk of losing what little cred I possess on this website, I didn’t actually get into MMA until after Tito Ortiz’s glory years. The first event I ever watched, as a 17-year-old dweebus on Christmas break who asked my dad to buy the PPV, was UFC 108 on January 1st, 2010; at the time, “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” was in the midst of a four-fight winless streak that ultimately ballooned into a 1-7-1 freefall before his ultimate exit from the promotion in which he’d built his legacy.
I never experienced Tito Ortiz, UFC Legend. Instead, I got Tito Ortiz, Walking Disaster. Without the consistent success he enjoyed during his first decade in the game, there was nothing to distract from every other cartoonish aspect of this man’s life, from a head that would struggle to cut down to flyweight if detached to the complete and utter lack of connection between his brain and his mouth.
I appreciate him, yes, but in the same way I might appreciate an anthropological specimen: as a creature fascinatingly close to human, one that could potentially offer new insights into our origins. Frankly, it’s hugely appropriate that he’s boxing in the co-feature of a card that had to jump ship from California to Florida because no sane commission would sanction it. This is where Tito belongs.
While this will be the 46-year-old’s first official foray into the sweet science, he’s flirted with it before; he had a grudge match planned with UFC head honcho and living embodiment of that one dude from Big Trouble in Little China Dana White, which I’m not ashamed to admit I’d pay good money to watch. While that ultimately fell through, he’s now set to duke it out with fellow Octagon staple Anderson Silva, who made his return to the ring earlier this year by clowning another human punchline in Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
If these two had fought in the cage in, say, 2006-2007, it could have been interesting. For all of his incredible striking acumen, Silva had his share of struggles with powerhouse wrestlers, and the significantly larger Ortiz most certainly fit that bill. Having Ortiz box Silva in 2021 is like having an aging long jumper race a retired sprinter; yes, punching is part of what Ortiz does, but it’s not his thing.
Even a shopworn Silva has Ortiz outclassed in virtually every aspect of boxing. Ortiz has some understated power in his right hand, as seen when he dropped and submitted the far younger Ryan Bader in the sole win of that aforementioned run, and a quality chin offset by a paper midsection. If that’s enough to beat “The Spider” at this point, I never want to see the Brazilian in any competition more physical than shuffleboard.
To head off that particular avenue of criticism, I will acknowledge that Ortiz’s recent record is better than Silva’s on paper. He’s 5-1 in his last six MMA matches, while Silva’s only non-overturned victory in his last eight bouts was a garbage decision over Derek Brunson. That said, Ortiz’s success completely disintegrates under scrutiny; since leaving the UFC, he’s beaten Alexander Shlemenko (natural middleweight fighting 20 pounds heavy), squeaked out a decision over Stephan Bonnar (completely shot, lost to Silva in 2012), tapped to an inverted triangle choke from Liam McGeary, and scored stoppages of Chael Sonnen (shot natural middleweight), Chuck Liddell (grievously shot. Seriously, Oscar, what the hell?), and Alberto Del Rio (a professional wrestler).
Iron sharpens iron, aluminum sharpens aluminum.
Silva vs. Ortiz in MMA could be sort of competitive. Silva vs. Ortiz in grappling could be legitimately interesting and entertaining. Silva vs. Ortiz in boxing is pointless. Expect Silva to run circles around him from bell to bell.