UFC 132 Fighter of the Night: Tito Ortiz

Tito Ortiz

Tito Ortiz

For all the great performances at UFC 132, the one that sticks out most has to be Tito Ortiz and his win over Ryan Bader.

Now, the UFC does their part and awards bonuses to fighters for submission, fight, or knockout of the night, but we’re going to take it one step further and award Tito Ortiz with the “Fighter of the Night.”

Upside: recognition for overcoming impossible odds.

Downside: no $75,000 bonus like the UFC awards (sorry, Tito).

What Ortiz accomplished in Vegas on Saturday night was not only unexpected, but it came when the MMA world and the organization he fights for all but gave up on him. Many fan posts across Twitter and Facebook read something along the lines, “I hope Bader retires Tito.” The odds were stacked against the “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” so much so that nearly every expert who covers the sport of MMA predicted him to be decimated by a younger and stronger Ryan Bader.

One submission later, everyone is wrong – myself included.

Ortiz won a fight for the first time in five years and he owes it to a change in preparation. Specifically, Ortiz stayed close to home, instead of going up to the mountains of Southern California like he usually does.

“It’s the rebirth of Tito Ortiz. I’m injury-free. I’m very, very healthy. I had a good training camp,” Ortiz told UFC.com shortly after his UFC 132 fight with Ryan Bader. “I did it at home, I didn’t go up to Big Bear. It’s the first time in 11 years I haven’t done it (in Big Bear). I think being mentally focused really helped out a lot. I have a lot of personal problems with my family and stuff and I really focused on the positive.”

Tito Ortiz submits Ryan Bader

Tito Ortiz submits Ryan Bader

Jason Parillo, who trained Ortiz leading into his UFC 132 bout with Bader, provided the former UFC light heavyweight champion with motivational tips and positive feedback while going through the home-based training camp. The game of mixed martial arts is just as mental as it is physical and the support he got from those in his camp made it easier for Ortiz to focus on the end-goal.

Despite the personal drama that Ortiz has gone through recently with his family, one thing remained clear: winning at UFC 132 was a high priority. Getting back on the winning track proved to him that he can overcome obstacles – both personal and professional – and still has potential to do damage, just as he did in his heyday.

“I think it all came down to my trainers,” Ortiz said. “I got to give it to Jason Parillo. Every single day in camp – we would go six days a week – every day in camp, he said, ‘Tito, believe in yourself.’

“You got to understand, this game of MMA, it’s very mental, very, very mental. Coming off of five loses in a row, a lot of personal stuff kind of (dragged) me down,  (made me) rebirth myself and break me out of that egg and be the true champion I really am.”

It’s things like these that give Ortiz the “Fighter of the Night” award. He stepped up and knocked one out of the park when no one expected him to, and did so in a night full of first-round finishes.

Now that Ortiz lives to fight another day with a Zuffa contract, he wants to get back in the mix, immediately. With the impact win in his back pocket, Ortiz is looking to right his wrongs in the form of getting back at the ones he’s faced before.

Ortiz wants rematches with both Forrest Griffin and Rashad Evans.

“I would like to fight Forrest again, I would like to fight Rashad again. Those are the two guys,” he said. “I gave Dana his opportunity to find someone to beat me and it didn’t work. Bader was (expletive) out. So I think this was my chance to get me shots at the guys that I thought I beat already.

“Give me another chance at them.”

Honorable mention: Dominick Cruz

Cruz goes with the head kick

Cruz goes with the head kick

Urijah Faber once took Dominick Cruz down to the mat, mounted him, and slapped on a painful-looking guillotine choke that forced forced Cruz to submit and lose his bid for the WEC featherweight title.

Oh, how revenge can be sweet.

On Saturday night, the stage was set for round-two, only this time Cruz was the champion and Faber was the challenger. Also, the match-up was at bantamweight and both fighters weighed in 10 pounds lighter than their last fight. Everything was different from the previous time these two met, including the outcome, as Cruz got back at Faber with a unanimous decision win.

“It was fun to talk trash,” Cruz said during the UFC 132 post-fight press conference. “Sometimes it’s easy to talk trash about a guy like Urijah. But I have nothing for respect for the guy.”

With the win, Cruz can go on record and say he’s beaten every man that’s ever stood in front of him in his professional career.

Bragging rights are always nice; almost as nice as “Fighter of the Night Honorable Mention.”

Well, maybe bragging rights are better.

In any case, well done, gentlemen. Well done.

Got something to say? Weigh in with a thought of your own in the comments section below.

Erik Fontanez is a staff writer for MMAWeekly.com.
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@Erik_Fontanez on Twitter or e-mail Erik a question or comment.

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