UFC 133 is set for tonight at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, featuring an interesting challenge for the presumed No. 1 contender slot for the light heavyweight championship held by Jon “Bones” Jones.
Originally, the match was between Penn State’s Phil Davis and Rashad Evans. Davis, though, suffered a knee injury during training and continued the recent rash of card changes for Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Ironically, injury situations have plagued the scheduled fights for Evans, but he’s been locked in for this battle - with the only question being who he will face.
After Davis pulled out, the immediate replacement was Tito Ortiz. Ortiz balked at taking another fight - three weeks after he beat heavily favored Ryan Bader at UFC 132. Ortiz won that fight quickly and decisively. That brought about a rumored offer to Lyoto Machida to rematch the Evans loss at UFC 98. Machida was said to have accepted, then reportedly wanted more money to take the fight on short notice.
Machida may be a strong fighter, but he’s not a proven star.
Ortiz then re-entered the picture and he is a proven star. His inclusion in this fight - as a rematch of the controversial draw against Evans at UFC 73, provides marketability, a definite clash of personalities and a real reason to pay a replacement fighter to participate.
Ortiz likely brings a bigger paycheck and slotted in the main event he’s both a draw with a really strong comeback story - a proven commodity that justifies the benefits of his contract.
While avis is a future superstar, his replacement by Ortiz actually makes the card more attractive. Evans is, by professional wrestling standards, a true heel. He’s got an ego and talks up fights. His approach to the Rampage Jackson fight (at UFC 114) was a classic. That was a battle of monster egos and strangely enough, Evans fought the fight safely, looking to out-point Jackson to the extent where once he got a takedown in the openig round, he was less aggressive, willing to put on a slower fight, obviously unwilling to slug it out or give his opponent any opportunities.
Ortiz, “the Huntington Beach Bad Boy,” had a similar reputation of talking big, playing to win and in the case of Chuck Liddell, he seemed to dodge the big fight.
On his comeback trail, Ortiz is now in the strange position of being a crowd favorite. When he fought Bader, he came in as the fighter with name value likely on his way out. Instead, he won over the audience with a surprisingly aggressive approach, swinging away and then finishing with a submission.
If Ortiz comes out aggressive tonight against Evans, he’ll likely win the crowd again,
Another bout on the main card should be interesting as hard-hitting Brazilian Vitor Belfort taking on the always controversial Yoshihiro Akiyama in the middleweight division.
Belfort was demolished by Anderson Silva, but who isn’t? Having put together a string of wins before that and having been a main eventer for various promotions throughout his career, he’s in a rather safe position.
Akiyama needs a win. He was defeated by his English counterpart, Michael Bisping, and in the fight before Chris Leben. He has missed out on becoming the Japanese superstar for UFC - the promotion is reportedly looking to make a big splash in Japan next year.
At this point, Akiyama has much more to lose - he’s got to win to get back in the mix. A loss would be his third in a row and while his name may still be big in Japan, he would be in serious danger of losing his UFC contract.