UFC 121 Preview Part 3: Matt Hamill vs. Tito Ortiz

So much of the press leading up to the Matt Hamill (9-2; 6KOs) vs. Tito Ortiz (15-7-1; 8KOs, 2SUBs) has focused on season 3 of “The Ultimate Fighter” where Hamill was a member of Team Ortiz. So yes, this is technically a teacher vs. pupil face-off though that is hardly the most fascinating storyline to be found here. Let us not forget that Ortiz is coming off of major neck surgery that forced him to withdraw from UFC 115. Being that this match features a wrestler taking on a wrestler should we automatically assume that his neck is strong enough to withstand chokeholds and headlocks and not incur structural damage? Or the fact that if Ortiz were to blow his opportunity and lose this fight then he would move to 0-4-1 over his last 5 fights with his last victory coming against the now laughable Ken Shamrock in 2006.

His chances of avoiding that rest in the hands of Matt Hamill, a man who is on an impressive 4 fight win streak but runs hot and cold . Of course one of those victories came over Jon Jones in a bout that saw Jones mop the floor with Hamill and then lose due to an illegal elbow disqualification. If that Hamill shows up again Ortiz should have no problem overpowering and out classing him on his way to an easy victory. On the other hand we have the Hamill who was in the building for “The Ultimate Finale 11″ when he swarmed Keith Jardine, won a decision victory and looked like somebody who could be creeping up on a title shot. Sure, his wrestling ability didn’t come into play at all and his striking didn’t look all that crisp but the onslaught he hit Jardine with was relentless and more than the Dean of Mean could handle.

No matter who comes out on top of this fight I expect it to be played out in slow motion. Hamill had never been the quickest guy around and Ortiz is no longer the spring chicken he once was. I’ll give Ortiz the benefit of the doubt and say that experience and an absolute need to win will allow him to take the fight to the mat and work his magic there. From there I expect to see a cerebral showdown that involves lots of jockeying for position and plenty of disgruntled casual fans who only purchased the event to see Brock Lesnar. I’ll be shocked if one of them manages a submission or KO victory as these are two extraordinarily smart fighters who will be hard pressed to give an inch. It’s going to be an ultra close fight but bet on Ortiz to take it, probably by decision (probably 29-28 across the board), thus setting up the inevitable Ortiz/Liddell 3 that we all know Dana White is secretly lusting for.

Pick: Tito Ortiz via decision

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