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Ortiz, Griffin ready to rumble again

Story by Andreas Hale
Photos by Chris Cozzone

Saturday’s long overdue rematch that pits Forrest Griffin and Tito Ortiz has been suddenly thrust to main event status after Brock Lesnar’s illness forced him to pull out of his heavyweight title match with Shane Carwin. Judging by the respective demeanors of both fighters, UFC 106’s throw down at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas could have very well been the main event all along.

“I was the first main event when UFC came to Las Vegas,” Ortiz said as it rang a friendly reminder of how long Ortiz has been a top draw in the UFC. “It’s like a homecoming for me.”

Long consider the UFC’s biggest stars, Tito Ortiz looks to make an impact on an already stellar light heavyweight division on Saturday. With his return to the UFC after a year layoff, he is getting no favors when he steps into the Octagon for a rematch against Griffin. Back in 2006, Ortiz slipped by Griffin with a very narrow (and debatable) split decision victory. Since then, Griffin has improved drastically and has defeated the likes of Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Quinton Jackson while also having a short run as light heavyweight champion.

“I’ve been fighting against some of the greatest fighters in the world,” Ortiz continued. “(With) Forrest being a former light heavyweight champion, I have my hands full. I’ve taken this fight very, very seriously.”

Ortiz has made it known that this will be the first time, in a long time, that he is at 100%. After undergoing back surgery for a bulging disc, Ortiz claims that he is ready to reclaim what is his. He’s even gone under the tutelage of Freddie Roach – Manny Pacquiao’s lauded trainer – to improve what has been cited as pedestrian boxing skills.

“He’s been under Freddie Roach so I’m sure he’s been working on his hands,” Griffin said to FightNews when asked if he thinks he’ll be getting a different Tito Ortiz on Saturday night. “But Tito’s got a great fall back (with his ground and pound). He’s been smashing for 12 years. So you know that’s part of his game. You prepare for whatever but the fight will be the fight.”

Griffin is looking to bounce back after dropping his title to Rashad Evans in December and suffering a lopsided KO loss to Anderson Silva back in August. He knows just how important this fight is and is looking to put on a show.

“I’m excited,” Griffin said. “Some of you guys (in the media) don’t look that excited. But hopefully by Saturday we’ll get a little excitement going on. It’s going to be a tough fight. We’re going to have fun out there (and) you’re going to have fun watching.”

“On a separate note,” Griffin began as he’s always one to sprinkle some humor over the seriousness of a fight. “People seem to have a fetish with Tito’s ass. Everywhere I go, somebody tells me to kick Tito’s ass (or) beat Tito’s ass. I think it’s unhealthy.”

“I have a nice ass,” Ortiz interjected. “What can I say?”

And therein lies the star power of both fighters. The ability to draw is based on both of their top shelf personas. If anyone can sell a fight to the masses, it’s these two.

Unfortunately, when they lock themselves inside of that eight sided cage, that’s where the jokes and smiles stop. One fighter will be getting his ass beat while the other will be delivering an ass kicking on November 21st.

Also on the card is the intriguing bout between welterweights Josh Koscheck and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson. After Ortiz and Griffin’s match got promoted to main event status, the UFC had to fight two fighters willing to get busy for a co-main event on short notice. Johnson and Koscheck stepped up to the plate and now we have a co-main event that could offer some explosiveness – for as long as it lasts.

Johnson is coming off of a devastating knockout victory against Yoshiyuki Yoshida at UFC 104 just under a month ago. Controversy surrounded his win as he came in six pounds overweight and had to sacrifice his “KO of the Night” bonus for the lapse in judgment. But to reconcile is err, Johnson will jump right back into the Octagon to face the always dangerous wrestling stud Josh Koscheck.

Koscheck was planning to face Mike Pierce on January 11th at UFC Fight Night 20, but when the call came to face Anthony Johnson as the co-main event, Koscheck couldn’t turn the opportunity down. Koscheck is coming off of a knockout victory of his own against Frank Trigg back at UFC 103 and promises that their showdown will not be left in the judges’ hands.

Both fighters are looking to turn the others lights out on Saturday.

"It's gonna be a party in the cage," Johnson said. "I go for the knockout so I don't have to leave it in the judges' hands. Just kill them, knock them out."

"I think bad judging is part of the sport,” Koscheck explained. “As far as fighters, we have to try to control that by finishing the fight. That is why I try to go out and finish the fight."

"You can expect the fight not to go to the judges' scorecard. I expect to come out with a big victory," he concluded.




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