Monday, August 08, 2011

MacDonald flashes upside as Ortiz falls in UFC 133

By John McMullen

Philadelphia - Injuries took a lot of the luster away from UFC 133 in the City of Brotherly Love over the weekend.

The event was originally expected to feature the highly-anticipated first title defense of light heavyweight Champion Jon Jones against the former kingpin Rashad Evans but a hand injury sidelined Jones.

Evans had been on the shelf himself for 14 months recovering from knee and hand injuries and didn't want to wait for Jones so the UFC brought in the up- and-coming Phil Davis as a replacement, hoping the Penn State product would help fuel ticket sales in the crowded Philly sports market.

Davis, however, pulled out of the bout with a knee injury suffered during training.

Desperate for a main event Dana White reached out to two big-name players, Tito Ortiz and Lyoto Machida. When Machida's camp asked for what White called "Anderson Silva" money, Ortiz, who resurrected his career with an upset win over Ryan Bader back in July, was lured with main event money and the promise of a title shot somewhere down the line if he could shock the world and pull off another unlikely win.

While it would have been a great story if the charismatic Californian topped Evans, few in the know thought he had any chance. Ortiz was a shot fighter before he found the Fountain of Youth against Bader but that fight proved to be the anomaly.

Evans, the former Michigan State wrestling star, returned from his long layoff looking quick and hungry as he dominated Ortiz before finally ending things at 4:48 on the second round.

You could sense Ortiz's fate was all but sealed when Evans scooped him off the mat with an impressive double-leg takedown that resembled more of a WWE 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 showers.

"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 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."
Sadly, these days Ortiz's best just isn't good enough in the Octagon or the box office.

UFC 133 drew just 11,583 paying fans and a gate of $1.5 million at Wells Fargo Center, paltry numbers for the promotion. Remember the UFC's first-ever trip to "The Keystone State" back in August of 2009 put 17,411 spectators in the same building with a Pennsylvania combat-sports record $3.55 million gate.

Clearly, UFC has to start marketing new stars and putting their promotional muscle behind them.

Welterweight Rory MacDonald was the most impressive young fighter on the card Saturday. The 22-year-old Canadian opened the pay-per-view portion of the card by knocking out Mike Pyle, 35, at 3:54 of the first round.

MacDonald (12-1, 3-1 UFC) took control from the outset and a left from the guard was the beginning of the end for the veteran Pyle (21-8-1, 4-3 UFC).

"Everything went my way tonight, I wanted a clear shot and I knew from looking in his eyes that the fight was over," MacDonald said.

White it's still too soon to project MacDonald as a future main event-type talent, he has turned things around after suffering the lone loss of his career to former WEC welterweight champ Carlos Condit back in back in June of 2010.
MacDonald seemed to be getting the better of Condit in the first two rounds of that one before succumbing to a combination of elbows and short punches in Round 3,

After the bout MacDonald moved to Montreal and joined Tristar Gym, home of Georges St-Pierre, perhaps the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. He responded to the new and presumably improved tutelage by taking a unanimous decision over Nate Diaz in April before disposing of Pyle in Philly.

"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."

And its exactly what a stale UFC needs.

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