UFC 106 Fight Week Previews: Tito Ortiz vs. Forrest Griffin

By E. Spencer Kyte (

A lot of people are lamenting this bout being atop the marquee for UFC 106.

They complain about two fighters coming in on losing streaks; one not having stepped into the cage for over a year, the other coming off an embarrassing defeat less than four months ago.

While this may not be the best main event the sport has ever seen, injuries and illness are to blame, not Tito Ortiz and Forrest Griffin. Besides, the inclusion of Griffin over the aging Mark Coleman is an upgrade and the last time these two met in the center of the Octagon, fight fans were treated to a tremendous back-and-forth bout.

Now Tito’s healthy and Forrest has something to prove. Expect a repeat of Round 1.

“The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Tito Ortiz (15-6-1) vs. “The Original Ultimate Fighter” Forrest Griffin (16-6-0)

Tito Ortiz is Team Punishment; he is the driving force behind the camp and while he certainly has a wealth of experience and a routine that works for him up in Big Bear, Forrest Griffin’s affiliation with Xtreme Couture gets the nod in the opening assessment category.

While Ortiz can bring in any number of well-known partners in advance of this bout, Griffin spends each day working with some of the best in the business, not to mention striking coach Ron Frazier, wrestling coach Neil Melanson and grappling / jiu jitsu instructor Robert Drysdale.

Thankfully, the 2007 ADCC Absoulte champ didn’t make any bold predictions heading into this bout.

Experience and strength of schedule fall to the longest reigning UFC light heavyweight champion in history. While some will diminish Tito’s run atop the 205 pound division because it involved a good year or two of dodging friend and challenger Chuck Liddell, Ortiz still handily beat every opponent put before him over a three-and-a-half year span, including earning the belt over Wanderlei Silva.

Of course, he also has the edge head-to-head against Griffin as well, though some would argue differently.

Their first fight was one that cemented Griffin’s standing as a fan favorite and helped begin his transformation into an eventual champion. For Ortiz, it was the last good win of his impressive career and a win that was achieved with a back that required major surgery.

But things have changed this time around, as Griffin is no longer the brawler who simply tried to trade blows with his opponents that Tito fought the first time. Though he’s lost his last two fights, Griffin has matured into a more technical fighter, at least he had previous to the Anderson Silva debacle.

That being said, Ortiz is essentially a big bag of question marks coming into this fight, as more than 18 months have passed since we last saw him in the ring, losing a unanimous decision to current light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida.

While Ortiz is always one to sell himself to the hilt and do what is necessary to hype a fight, who can truly say how much the back problems affected him all this time. Could a surgically-repaired back lead to a return to relevance for Ortiz?

Obviously, this isn’t the fight the UFC and fans were hoping to have as the Main Event of UFC 106; it wasn’t even the fight originally booked for Ortiz in the first place.

But in terms of last minute replacements and compared to the likes of UFC 97 (cough Thales Leites cough), this really isn’t that bad of a bout.

Chances are that by the time Sunday rolls around, you’ll have been pleasantly surprised.

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