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UFC 133 Predictions From The Staff

UFC 133: Evans vs. Ortiz 2 goes down tomorrow night from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. owner Raj Giri and head writer Mark Wayne preview the main event and offer their predictions for the show. Also, don’t forget to check back at Saturday afternoon for our live, ongoing coverage of UFC 133: Evans vs. Ortiz 2.

Rashad Evans Vs. Tito Ortiz

Former UFC light heavyweight champions Rashad Evans and Tito Ortiz will square off in the main event of UFC 133 to settle what they started at UFC 73 back in 2007. The two men met then while in vastly different stages of their careers and battled to a unanimous draw, leaving a bad taste in everyone’s mouths. The rematch will see a reinvigorated Tito Ortiz step up to take on Rashad Evans in Suga’s first fight back in action since May of last year.

Having beaten young gun Ryan Bader emphatically last month at UFC 132 to snap a four-year winless streak and breathe life back into what was a stagnating career, Ortiz is riding high heading into this fight with Evans. The 36-year-old sports a general size advantage over his younger opponent and is injury-free for the first time in a long time, allowing him to train properly and implement the wrestling-heavy attack which made him one of the best in the world for so long. It was hard to take much away from Ortiz’s victory over Bader technically speaking, as the fight was over so quickly, but it seemed to showcase a more fit and driven Ortiz than we’ve seen in some time. Regardless, it will be up to Ortiz to prove that the win over Bader was more than a fluke and that he really is back to stay.

Since fighting Ortiz to a draw back then, Evans has defeated some of the best fighters in the world. He took out Chuck Liddell and then Forrest Griffin to win the title and he bounced back from a knockout loss to Lyoto Machida by taking decisions over Thiago Silva and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Evans has been hovering at the top of the light heavyweight division since taking out Rampage, but has seen two title shots (against Mauricio Rua and Jon Jones, respectively) go out the window for one reason or another. This means that Suga has been on the shelf for over a year, with part of that time being spent rehabbing a knee injury. Though Evans is certainly a more improved and dynamic fighter than when he first faced Ortiz, ring rust and the drastic revamping of his training camp leave a few question marks surrounding Evans as well.

Mark: Technically speaking, Evans should have the edge in this bout being younger, more athletic and more explosive than his opponent. Suga has generally shown a more solid implementation of the striking game and has takedowns that were enough to get Ortiz to the mat in 2007, had he not repeatedly grabbed the fence. With the exception of submissions, Evans has been doing just about everything Ortiz does, but slightly better and with more success against top-of-the-heap competitors. Still, ring rust is a killer and Ortiz is primed coming off of one of the biggest wins of his life. It’s Rashad’s fight to lose, but maybe an injury-free and surging Ortiz can make him do just that. Tito Ortiz via submission.

Raj: There are a lot of factors in this fight that really make it more unpredictable than the odds-makers would indicate. The 15-month layoff for Evans should be a factor, and it wouldn’t shock me to see a reversal of the first fight, with Evans coming out strong early but gassing later and Ortiz taking the later rounds. However, Evans has been training for a title fight for almost a year, so I don’t really see that happening. I see a repeat of Evans’ fight with Quinton Jackson, with Evans using his wrestling to keep Ortiz on the mat for the better part of 15 minutes en route to securing a decision. Evans via unanimous decision.

Vitor Belfort vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama

UFC 133’s co-main event will pit two of the world’s best middleweights against one another and, with both men coming off of disappointing losses, Vitor Belfort vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama is a fight that — as sure as anything in MMA ever is – promises to
deliver the action.

Though he has lost more than won inside the Octagon, Yoshihiro Akiyama has left his heart (and usually a fair amount of his blood) in the cage each time out and his willingness to throw caution to the wind and brawl with anyone has not only earned the respect of a legion of fans, but also three Fight of the Night bonuses. That reckless courage is also something of a downfall for Sexyama, as he often ignores his impressive judo skills and grappling acumen in favor of a gutter war. He has been defeated consecutively by Chris Leben and Michael Bisping in close contests and will no doubt be looking to come back strong against The Phenom.

In many ways the opposite of Akiyama, Belfort has always displayed technical proficiency and wherewithal in his fights – it is his mental fortitude that has been known to fail. One of the most talented strikers in all of MMA, Belfort possesses the skill and power to end anyone’s night early and, if he can keep his opponent from getting him discouraged, he usually does. Belfort did just that in his UFC return against Rich Franklin, earning a TKO over Ace in just one round. He would not fare as well in the title fight that he was awarded with that victory, as his old training partner Anderson Silva leveled him with a front kick in round one and finished him off with punches soon after.

Mark: If Akiyama does what he often does and ditches a sound strategy for an exciting one (not that they can’t be one and the same), he may find himself exiting the Octagon with his third straight defeat. If Akiyama hangs tough and keeps Belfort off-balance with takedowns and ground fighting, he may find his opponent withering on his way to victory. Both men are hungry heading into this one and a lot of the potential outcome will be determined by how Akiyama plays it. It’s likely that he’ll throw down the way he always does and get out-struck, but what can I say? I’m a fan of his entrance. Akiyama via unanimous decision.

Raj: This should be an exciting fight, and I think Belfort really wants to make a statement after his first-round front-kick loss to Anderson Silva. I predict Belfort will come out of the gates swinging, and the always-game Akiyama obliging him. Even though Akiyama hasn’t been knocked out since 2005, I see Belfort finishing this fight early. Belfort via first-round TKO.