LEGEND OR HYPE: TITO ORTIZ
Here we are again, with another exciting edition of revealing the truth behind MMA’s biggest names. Hoardes of numbers and letters were ruthlessly gathered and forced to create what could only be described as the most hard hitting, realistic approach to passing judgment on our fellow man. In this case, I of course speak of our beloved champions of the cage.
This week we turn our attention to another one of MMA’s so-called legends, as we did last week with Randy Couture (17.5/25). This week, unlike our past two entries, we focus on a guy who almost revolutionized the role of the villian in MMA on a mainstream level. He was Chael Sonnen’s Chael Sonnen, make no mistake about that. I cannot think of a single person in MMA today that garnishes the same type of response as he did in his time. Or really any time. Including Chael Sonnen.
If you haven’t guessed it by now, shame on you.
Let’s talk Tito Ortiz. The type of guy who even gets hated on at press conferences for OTHER fighters. Why is such a touted member of the MMA Gods so universally disliked? I don’t know, but maybe we can see if he truly is a Legendary fighter here today and glean something from that. If nothing else, maybe we just might be able to help with these deep questions on the vile that oozes from Ortiz.
Does “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” really live up to his status in the sport, or is he just a pumped up balloon of the UFC and beyond?
I have come up with a relatively easy set of steps that I take each potential Legend through, awarding them up to five points in each category. The categories are simple: win/loss ratio, average winning streak, caliber of opposition, frequency of fights, and noteworthy accomplishments. So any fighter can earn up to 25 points, with a minimum of about 17 points needed to really be considered seriously as any level of a Legend in MMA.
This method, which is essentially a slimmed down version of my amazingly vast and inappropriate possession of every bit of MMA information out there, should give us a rather honest perspective on the fighters we all love (to hate). Plus, it voids personality/popularity influence, which is an ever growing problem thanks to Dana White’s hobby of star building. Tito Ortiz is certainly one of White’s first stars.
Let us now toss away the stardom and the exposure, and get down to the math. Maybe this will help us decide if Tito is warranted his space in the Hall of MMA Greats
.Win/Loss: 18-11-1 ( 1997-2014)
The first thing that jumped out at me here was how similar his record is to Randy Couture’s. We covered him last week, and it’s fresh on my mind still. That, my friends, is not a good sign here. Anytime we see numbers close together when we are talking win/loss stats is not a good sign. It will be interesting how many “Legends” we come across who sport such even records. Especially in corrolation to their value as a “personality” in the sport.
Tito has fought 30 professional MMA bouts in his career, winning 18 of them. 30 fights in itself seems like such a small number, but these articles have begun to uncover a reason for that; The UFC. Fighters who were with the company from the start, or perhaps helped during its rise, all seem to have interesting records when we talk Legends of the sport. Most of them so far, in fact, have very 50/50 records that beg the question why was this individual is still in the show at all?
Ortiz, if anybody, was a UFC man all the way. I believe Tito has fought almost all of his 30 bouts inside The Octagon. Now that could be a good thing, when we get down to caliber of opponents, because the UFC certainly housed many of the MMA giants in Tito’s prime. Pride, of course, holding the rest ( and some guys, like Liddell, Silva, Belfort, and Wanderlei, did both),
Regardless, in a math sense AND when compared to most other UFC fighters, Tito falls pretty short of being any sort of spectacular. 11 losses is something you would expect to see with a boxer during his entire career moreso than with an MMA fighter. Especially giving the fact that his wins were only slightly higher than those 11 losses, one could only guess that Tito stayed employed for reasons other than his actual fighting skills.
Like his mouth.
His abillity to sell PVV numbers like nobody else, in a time where the UFC wasn’t this massive, globe-dominating monster like it is today, was a tremendous asset back then. That is all well and fine for Ortiz and his legacy around the water cooler, but here where we rumble with calculators, “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” comes up slightly under with record that has spanned a decade and a half.
Average Winning Streak: 3.75 Fights
Tito cranks it up a notch here in this department, and he owes every single point he gets here to Dana White. To those of you not in THE know, White was Ortiz and Liddell’s manager before the UFC skyrocketed into everyones homes. Even during. I think the fact that Tito was pushing so much attention toward MMA and UFC events with his character (ala WWE-style) really got the man a lot of fights. How could he not fight a great deal, giving the fact that he was carrying so much of the early big PPV days on his back.
Once you dig deeper into how we got to 3.75 fights, you see an interesting spike and dip scenario with Tito’s fight career. He had two very long winning streaks between 2000 and 2006. He fought something like 13 or 14 times during those six years, and only lost twice. Had it not been for Randy’s good spanking hand and Liddell’s fists, Ortiz may have very well delivered an average winning streak of around 5 fights.
After that, it was all downhill for “Bad Boy” Ortiz inside The Octagon. If almost mirroring his 2000-2006 run in reverse, Ortiz lost every fight he had between 2006 and 2012. He fought about 10 times, losing all but one (he choked out the ever “eh” Ryan Bader in 2011) in the process. This hurt his numbers here more than anything.
In addition, Ortiz owes a good chunk of his bloated win streak to being matched up with a good deal of mid-range fighters. That, and three fights with Ken Shamrock that he breezed through. Yes, he has almost almost a four fight win streak on average, but the numbers are inflated with tidbits of BS. That is not to take anything away from a single fighter Ortiz faced, I’m merely suggesting to you that maybe Tito was fighting all the guys that Couture and Liddel wern’t knocking off first.
I cannot think, right off the top of my head, of any UFC fighter that collected as many losses in a row and managed to remain employed. It shows you the real power of the love/hate relationship Ortiz created between himself, the UFC, and the fans. I’m sure that put lots of dollars in the Huntington Beach Bank Account, but it does little for looking at a fighter and his statistical skills.
In the end, Tito started off tremendously strong, then tapered off to one of (if not THE) longest losing streak in UFC history. His time with Bellator has been revitalizing, and his wins have been against elite guys like Shlemenko and Bonnar this year. That alone keeps this stat from being a 2, and for now, the past is still very close in the rear view mirror.
Caliber of Opposition: UFC/Bellator
As I said earlier, Tito fought most of his matches inside The Octagon. Making the task easier is the fact that Ortiz didn’t jump around a lot as far as weight classes go, so we only really have to look at the UFC’s Light-heavyweight division from 1997 to 2012 to sum things up. Sounds a bit daunting, but it’s really not once you see a few select names.
Now, let’s look at some of the big names that Tito Ortiz faced during his fight career: Mezger, both Shamrocks, Chuck Liddell, Couture, Wanderlei Silva, Belfot, Forrest Griffin, Evan Tanner (kind of), Rahshad Evans, Noguiera, and Machida.
Those guys are the top people that Ortiz faced in his 15 years fighting for the UFC. Let’s now take a bit of a closer look at some of these matches, and how they went down.
Ortiz went 1-1 with Mezger, lost to Frank Shamrock but beat Ken 3 times, lost to Liddell twice, lost to Couture, beat Wandy, won a splitter against Vitor, went 1-2 with Griffin, stomped Tanner, then lost to everyone after that that I listed.
Seeing it written out in such a way shows Ortiz was able to hang with some real animals of the sport, but not so much the ELITE. Look at it a second time, and you’ll notice most of the guys on the list that he DID beat were almost purely punchers who rocked limited wrestling skills.
In other words, Ortiz can kick your ass if you can’t strike OR wrestle. A lot of the fighters on the list are solid in both wrestling and striking, and that is probably why Ortiz lost against them. He smothered the smaller Shlemenko in his Bellator debut, then returned to snag a splitter vs Stephan Bonnar.
In reality, I think that the two biggest wins of Tito’s career were against Wanderlei SIlva in 2000, and Ryan Bader in 2011. I know he beat some good guys (Tanner, Patrick Cote, Forrest, Shlemenko), but those two really stand out to me. I think Bader especially because, at that point in his career, Tito had long since been anything but a long shot in a fight. He really did stun everybody with that victory.
In Tito’s defense, many felt the Bader victory wouldresult in him getting beat up in 3 or so more fights before calling it quits. It must have sucked for Tito to come up with the UFC during it’s rise to mainstream attention, and then start losing every single fight that he had. He is probably the longest reigning champion that fans either love or totally despise.
Bottom line, as always, are the numbers here. In the end, “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” won a lot of fights for the UFC, a few good ones even. However, Ortiz fails when paired with a newer age fighter or perhaps a real monster from his own time. Either way you spin it, Ortiz is more or less the best bronze medal (3rd place) artist in the history of the UFC’s 205 division.
He would have been a gatekeeper, but he didn’t win any once he got to the gate.
Frequency of Fights: 1.56 Fights a Year
Is it not a bit odd to you that Tito fought for 15 years with the UFC, and only had 27 bouts there? I mean the math is almost perfect (15 years x 2 fights a year = 30 fights) in a way that shows you he fought pretty rare, despite his noteriety. I am sure a lot of it has to do with building anticipation, which always equals better PPV number for The Baldfather. But what does the actual math tell us about how active Ortiz was?
He pretty much fought in January and then again in October, more or less, ever single year for his whole career. Averaging aside, he flat out skipped a lot of time (remember his constant bitching about back issues?) during the 15 year run. Only by rounding does he get up to 2 fights a year, which IS standard for high profile fighters. As I have stated many times in the past, the UFC likes to dole out its “Golden Boys” two times a year each.
May times after his “Great Fall of 2006″, he fought once or no times a year.
Tito was a PPV machine back in the day, before he amassed that killer losing streak that chased him away from The Octagon for good. Hell, his fight with Bonnar recently was the most watched TV fight ever. However, he has fought less and less as he won less and less overall. Ortiz spread himself out as thin as almost anyone I have seen so far. I think it may explain that “Im secretly scared to fight” thing we all feel eminating off Ortiz around fight time.
I really consider 2-3 fights a year to be average for a decent to well-known UFC fighter. Coming in slightly under average for someone many consider a Fight Diety is just a strange discovery to me. It should be to you too, dear reader.
I don’t know what else to say. Even UFC Stock-Champ Randy Couture fought more than Tito. You could get a list of all fighters employed by the UFC, flip through it like a phonebook, and put your finger on a random name. I bet you anything that name fights more often than Tito Ortiz did.
The UFC, again, should get a lot of credit for the big points Tito scores here. Ortiz, like it or not, is one of the true pioneers of bringing the UFC to the masses. His character, opponents, and in-your-face media interactions garnered a substantial amount of early interest in big UFC “superfights”. Long before the big talk was GSP Vs Anderson, everyone in the MMA world was super stoked to see Ortiz square off with Ken Shamrock, Chuck Liddell, and Randy Couture.
Ortiz, Liddel, and Cuture are probably the “Godfathers” of UFC stardom, maybe tossing in Matt Hughes to a degree. He rode in alongside a handful of guys that really helped bring the sport alive. Tito cannot be denied his credit here, he is a huge MMA star wherever he decides to fight. Inside and outside Dana’s liking (and the UFC as a whole), Tito never gave in to the haters (and mostly ignored all the love, except which he gives himself).
Say what you will about the man, but he did some major things in the UFC. Whether anyone feels that matters much, the fact still remains that the UFC is the largest and highest level MMA organization in existence. Knowing that, here are some of “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy’s” accomplishments during his stint inside The Octagon, stats that will likely stand for a long time as some of the best:
UFC Hall Of Fame
UFC Light Heavyweight Championship (One time)
Five successful title defenses
UFC 13 Light Heavyweight Tournament Runner-Up
Knockout of the Night (One time)
Submission of the Night (One time)
Fight of the Night (Four times)
Most fights in UFC history (27)
Most championship fights in the Light Heavyweight division (9)
Most championship rounds fought on Light Heavyweight division (28)
Second most successful Light Heavyweight title defenses in
UFC history (5)
Second most consecutive successful Light Heavyweight title defenses in
UFC history (5)
Second most wins in Light Heavyweight division championship fights (6)
Most wins in the Light Heavyweight division (15)
– Not to mention his Bellator career, at least for now, seems to be on the rise.
Total Score: 17/25
Conclusion: Tito Ortiz skates onto the list, whether you like it or not. Which, I suppose, is still an accomplishment in the world of high profile MMA. Be it his mouth, fighting skills, or a healthy combo of both, Tito rises above many. However, Ortiz squeezes in when it comes to being a Legend. Sure, he is a staple in the game, and a “legend” in many senses. Still, from a purely fighting perspective, it falls a little flat on many levels.
Tito Ortiz went 1-7-1 from 2006 to 2012, and has fought twice since. You think if Ortiz is to be a Legend of anything, it should be his Legendary ability to keep on fighting in the UFC with a record like that over such a long period of time. Seeing it in such a way really makes you wonder why Tito is considered to be amongst the greatest in the sport. Is it for fighting, or for being a draw?
I am sure Tito, and whatever fans he hasn’t pissed off yet, will disagree with me. They will say that Ortiz MADE the UFC, and that he was cut off by the rising star of Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture. Perhaps his battles with Dana White or his marriage even. They’ll tell me his back kept him from being the monster that he used to be (you know, back when he was beating up guys like Elvis Sinosec). They will rant and rave about his various accomplishments, especially in 2014, many I probably wouldn’t argue over.
Today, Tito ortiz, you are Legend!
By: R Eric Ellison
Photo: Zuffa, LLC