I know that it is a fact that was quickly lost to history and irrelevant at this point but it is hard not to think back to the lead up to UFC Fight Night 24 when these two were originally scheduled to meet and reflect on what has changed in the interim. For Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (19-5) all is pretty much the same but Tito Ortiz (16-9-1) is closing the book on one of the most fascinating years we’ve seen recently in MMA. Originally we thought that pulling out of that fight was pretty much the end for Ortiz. He got fed to a hungry and grumpy Ryan Bader at UFC 132 instead and Dana White would tell anybody anywhere that if Ortiz lost that fight he was done inside the Octagon. Of course Ortiz went out and pulled a miraculous rabbit out of his hat, seizing victory through the always popular lucky punch/guillotine choke combo.
It will most likely go down as the upset of 2011 and it earned him a slot in the main event of the very next PPV card. Of course he was bailing out a desperate White who was trying to save a sinking card but in the end he turned in a thrilling performance against Rashad Evans and very nearly stole another one with another choke. Had he sunk that choke in a little bit deeper we would most likely be talking about a Jones/Ortiz main event this weekend.
So where does that leave him entering UFC 140? Nobody feels as though his job is on the line and his status as an eternal main carder remains in tact. Nogueira however has fallen on hard times and will be fighting to stave off a three fight losing streak. His last fight saw him try valiantly to expose the still green Phil Davis but he simply couldn’t find a way. Believe it or not I expect this fight to look a lot like that one stylistically. Nogueira will try mightily to wrestle the action to the ground where he can try to work some BJJ magic and Ortiz will be working hard to keep things upright. But more than takedown defense I hope that Ortiz is brushing up on his striking in his training because he simply doesn’t have the firepower that Davis used to keep Little Nog at bay. I hate to be unsophisticated and point towards intangibles when picking this fight but when we look at the way these two are conducting the twilights of their careers it just seems as though Ortiz has remained hungry while Nogueira has not. In the mind of Tito Ortiz there is no such thing as a farewell tour and even if his body and talent don’t measure up anymore nobody brings the noise in a pinch quite like him. I know that back in January it would have seemed totally unfathomable but I’m predicting that we get to see The Gravedigger for a second time this year on Saturday night.
Tags: Dana White, Mixed Martial Arts, Phil Davis, ryan bader, Tito Ortiz, UFC 140