Sunday, August 07, 2011

Evans tops Ortiz in Philly

By John McMullen

PHILADELPHIA - Legends like Joe Frazier and Bernard Hopkins have helped the
City of Brotherly Love earn the tag of "The Fightin' City of Philadelphia."

These days boxing has taken a back seat to mixed martial arts. Philly, however, 
remains a big-time player in the fight game. 

There are stars from the city like Kensington native Eddie Alvarez, one of
one of the top lightweights in the world, and marquee events like Saturday's
UFC card at Wells Fargo Center, the company's second major pay-per-view from
the arena.

Penn State product Phil Davis was scheduled to headline the event against
former light heavyweight champ Rashad Evans but was forced to bow out with a
knee injury, opening the door for Tito Ortiz.

Ortiz has a lot in common with guys like Frazier and Hopkins. Once upon a time
the "Huntington Beach Bad Boy" was one of the biggest names in the sport. Also
a former UFC light heavyweight kingpin, Ortiz was every bit the trailblazer as
a Randy Couture or Chuck Liddell and by 2006, the charismatic Californian had
exploded into one of the biggest pay-per-view draws in the world for his bouts
with Liddell, Forrest Griffin, and Ken Shamrock.

Back problems took their toll, however, and when Ortiz stepped into the
Octagon against rising star Ryan Bader on July 2 in Las Vegas, he had a lot
more in common with the real face of fighting when it comes to Philly -- Rocky

Like the fictional palooka created for the silver screen by Sylvester
Stallone, Ortiz was supposed to be a gimmee for Bader. After all, he hadn't
tasted victory since topping a then-lightly-regarded Shamrock in October of
2006. Bader, meanwhile, had won 13 fights over that span and figured to use
Ortiz as a speed bump on his way to the top of the division.

In fact UFC president Dana White made it known before the bout that another
loss for Ortiz would be his swan song in the UFC and he entered the cage that
night as 11-2 underdog

For at least for one night Ortiz found the Fountain of Youth, knocking Bader
down before clamping on a guillotine at 1:56 of Round 1 for the stunning

But this isn't Hollywood and Evans wasn't interested in any storybook

A former Michigan State wrestling star, Evans returned from a 14-month layoff
looking quick and hungry as he dominated Ortiz before finally ending things
with strikes at 4:48 on the second round.

You could sense Ortiz's fate was all but sealed when Evans scored an
impressive double-leg takedown that resembled more of a back body drop in
Round 1. The move seemed to fuel Evans and put doubt in Ortiz 's head.

A seasoned veteran, Ortiz did put together a last gasp early in the second
when Evans went for the same double-leg. This time, Ortiz sensed it, drew
Evans in and slapped on a choke. He could never cinch it, however, and
Evans was able to slip out.

Moments later Evans scored with a thunderous knee to the body that all but
stole Ortiz's will. Moments later a series of strikes sent Ortiz to the

"I feel great," said Evans after improving to 16-1-1. "I feel all that hard
work paid off. It was a great night, I got mad respect for Tito for taking
this fight."

White was also impressed with the performance and gave both Ortiz and Evans
the $70,000 Fight of the Night bonus.

"Again I can't say enough good things about how good Rashad looked tonight and
Tito fought an awesome fight, worthy of Fight of the Night," White said during
the post-fight press conference.

The top-ranked light heavyweight contender, Evans now will wait for the winner
of Jon Jones and Quinton Jackson, scheduled for Sept. 24.

"I gotta take my hat off to Rashad. Good luck and get that world title dog,"
Ortiz said. "Show the world you are one of the best in the world. I came here
and gave it my all. I have nothing to hold back, Rashad beat me at my best."

These days Ortiz's best just isn't good enough.

In the semifinal of the night, middleweight slugger Vitor Belfort rebounded
from his KO loss to Anderson Silva in resounding fashion, brutalizing Japan's
Yoshihiro Akiyama en route to a first round knockout. Akiyama lost his footing
after a stiff left and Belfort swarmed him on the ground before the fight was
stopped at 1:52 of the frame.

"I feel great," Belfort said after the bout. "God gave me the strength to move
forward and I thank Him for that. I have the courage it takes to be one of the
best. I feel strong, fit, powerful and fast."

Youth destroyed experience as 22-year-old Rory MacDonald (12-1, 3-1 UFC)
opened the pay-per-view portion of the card by TKOing Mike Pyle, 35, at 3:54
of the first round. MacDonald dominated from the outset and a right from the
guard was the beginning of the end for Pyle (21-8-1, 4-3 UFC).

"I went in really confident, and I have a lot more to show," MacDonald said.
"I'm constantly improving and stepping up the ladder which is what I want to
be doing. Everything went my way tonight, I wanted a clear shot and I knew
from looking in his eyes that the fight was over."

Cypriot Constantinos Philippou took a split decision over UFC veteran Jorge
Rivera (18-9, 7-8 UFC) in a lackluster middleweight bout. It was the first UFC
win for Philippou (8-2, 1-1 UFC), a former professional boxer and cast member
of The Ultimate Fighter who is trained by Matt Serra.

"I am very happy with winning my first UFC fight, but it wasn't the way I
wanted to win it," Philippou said. "I wanted to show off my boxing skills and
instead I was wrestling and using my jiu jitsu skills. But I will learn from
my mistakes and come back stronger and fitter."

In a battle of true MMA veterans, Dennis Hallman shocked the crowd by entering
the Octagon in a speedo before Brian Ebersole shocked him with a first round
TKO. These two fighters came in with a combined 145 bouts in the rear view
mirror and Ebersole (48-14-1, 1 NC 2-0 UFC) became the fan favorite by
dispatching Hallman (66-14-2, 1 NC, 3-5 UFC) rather easily.

"The feeling is bitter sweet, the fight didn't start the way I wanted it to
start," Ebersole said. "I thought I would have had to wear him down much more
but luckily for me he had an open guard which let me get in there. I'm
ecstatic about my two straight victories. I want to fight the veterans now,
the ones that I came up watching."

The opener of the night which aired live on the UFC's Facebook page saw
Brazilian middleweight Rafael Natal (13-3-1, 1-1-1 UFC) take a unanimous
decision over Minneapolis' Paul Bradley (18-3-0, 0-1-0 UFC, a late replacement
moving up from 170 to 185.

"I am really, really happy about this fight. I feel like I needed it, I worked
really hard for it," Natal said. "It was a tough fight and I'm glad I came
through winning."

Bradley proved to be a competent foe despite taking the fight on short notice
but fell on all three scorecards, 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28, after tiring late.

"I feel like it was my fault, I could have taken him down in the second
round," Bradley said. "I didn't, so it’s my fault. It was a close fight, and I
am disappointed by the result. Like Dana [White] always says, never leave it
to the judges."

Former WEC featherweight champion Mike Brown used a dominant first round to
snap a three-fight UFC losing streak with a unanimous decision over Nam Phan.
Brown (25-8, 1-3 UFC), who had not won since September of 2010, blitzed Phan
(16-10, 0-2 UFC) early and nearly finished him in Round 1. Brown wasn't nearly
as impressive from there but held on to win 29-27, 29-28 and 29-28.

"At the beginning my back was haunting me so that’s why I was a little
conservative, but I'm glad I got the job done," Brown said. "There was a lot
of repetitive trauma there for over four minutes so even though I didn't knock
him out, I know that I was breaking him down. It wasn't the most perfect
fight, but I'm happy I got the victory."

"It was a really tough bout so I did what I could do." Phan countered.
"Unfortunately it wasn't enough, but I believe it was as fair as it could be."

Johny Hendricks, a former NCAA national wrestling champion at Oklahoma,
continued his climb up the welterweight division by upending Mike Pierce in a
split decision. A solid knee while in the clinch from Hendricks (11-1, 6-1
UFC) punctuated things as the OU All-American showed a more well-rounded style
than Pierce (12-4, 4-2 UFC), also a collegiate wrestler at Portland State.

"It was a very tough fight," Hendricks said. "It's always hard with other
wrestlers, and he changed levels often making it even harder. I feel that the
take downs were even, in fact, I don't think he took me down at all. I feel
awesome, my ground game is good, my knees are great and I am really happy with
my improvement."

"I'm obviously disappointed," Pierce said. "I had a really good camp, went
through really good training and I feel disappointed after all the hard work I
put in. It was a fair fight, both of us were trying to finish what we started,
and unfortunately it went the way it did."

The final Facebook bout saw veteran bantamweight Ivan Menjivar (23-8, 2-1
UFC), who retired in 2006 only to return in 2010, edge Nick Pace in a close
unanimous decision (29-28 on all three scorecards) that the crowd didn't like.
Pace (6-2, 1-1 UFC) pressed the action in the final round and ignited the
crowd with a flying knee that caught Menjivar's chin but it wasn't enough to
sway the judges.

"I happy with the win, he took me down so it was a very close fight," Menjivar
said. "I think I punched him more than he did so I was more in control, but he
hit me hard twice and that made my legs shake."

Menjivar didn't make weight for the bout so he had to pay a fine and work out
a financial agreement with Pace.

"I hate losing more then I like winning, and I want to be the champion," Pace
said. "It was very unlucky, but that’s MMA and that’s life, its not always

The action moved to SPIKE TV from there as featherweight Chad Mendes (11-0,
2-0 UFC), a two-time PAC 10 wrestling champ at California Polytechnic and
stablemate of popular former featherweight kingpin Urijah Faber, stayed
undefeated by pitching a shutout against Brazilian submission specialist Ranji
Yahya (16-7, 1-1 UFC).

"Of course we all look for a finish, but overall I am happy with the fight and
I felt good," said Mendes. "When I took him down the first time I wanted to
see what he felt like. He's a tough guy and I knew he would be strong. I was
trying to elbow him and follow through with some quick pop-shots as much as

Lengthy light heavyweight Alexander Gustafsson of Sweden finished up the SPIKE
prelims by knocking out Matt Hamill, who is legally deaf, at 3:31 of the
second round.

Gustafsson (12-1, 4-1 UFC) stunned Hamill (11-4, 9-4 UFC) with a left uppercut
and poured it on from there before ref Dan Miragliotta stopped

"This was by far the biggest fight of my career. It was unbelievable,"
Gustafsson said. "I think that I was too defensive in the first round, but the
second round I felt great. I want a career out of this, I want to fight the
best guys in the world."

Hamill blamed his lackluster performance on a lack of training.

"I was eager going into the Octagon, but I was also fatigued," Hamill
explained. "I had little time to prepare for the fight, and you could see my
fatigue as my arms were down from the start of the fight. Alexander is a
dangerous striker, and it was dangerous for me to have my arms down. I'll be
back tougher than ever though."

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