It had been 1,391 days since Tito Ortiz and Rashad Evans fought to a draw at UFC 73. For 1,391 days, there had been public and private questions as to which man was the better light heavyweight.
The questions were decisively and definitively answered Saturday night.
Evans reaffirmed his position as the No. 1 contender for the light heavyweight championship with a second-round knockout of Ortiz at UFC 133. Immediately after the fight, Evans challenged light heavyweight rivals Jon Jones and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson for the title. Jones, the light heavyweight champion, and Jackson are scheduled to fight for the title on September 24 at UFC 135 in Denver.
“I would prefer it be Jones. He’s real cocky. I would love to teach him a lesson,” Evans said when asked who he would rather face. “He has a tough fight with Rampage.”
Evans was the aggressor as he routinely slammed and wrestled Ortiz to the mat. From there, he would punish Ortiz with punches. Evans finished the fight with a knee to the head and chest of a prone Ortiz followed by six punches.
“I gave my all. I’m still fighting. I’m still hungry,” Ortiz said. “Rashad was the better fighter. I’m going to keep fighting. I’m a fighter.”
The route to Saturday night’s main event rematch was circuitous. Initially, Evans and Jones were scheduled to fight for the title. However Jones suffered a hand injury and was replaced by Phil Davis, who subsequently injured his knee in training. Despite Davis’ objections, the UFC made the decision to find a substitute. Ortiz accepted the fight four nights after his stunning first round submission of Ryan Bader at UFC 132. Ortiz had not won a fight in the UFC since knocking out Ken Shamrock in Oct. 2006, and it was public knowledge that he would have been cut if he lost to Bader.
“Tito said it a lot going into this fight. Tito was going into his execution against Ryan Bader. He ends up pulling off not only a win but an impressive win,” UFC President Dana White said of Ortiz. “He then goes in there [Saturday night] against the No. 1 contender in Rashad Evans, who again I can’t say enough good things about how good Rashad looked tonight, and Tito fought an awesome fight.”
The fight was Evans’ first since beating Jackson at UFC 114 in May 2010. Evans had longed for a title fight against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Rub beat Lyoto Machida for the championship at UFC 113. Machida knocked out Evans in the second round of their fight at UFC 98 to win the title.
The Evans-Rua fight was made for UFC 128. But Evans injured his knee in training and was replaced by former Jackson camp stablemate Jones, who won the title in spectacular fashion. Coupled with statements that he would fight his then-friend, Jones’ title fight victory fractured Evans’ relationships with Jones and the Jackson camp. Evans is now trained by Imperial Athletics.
“It helped out a lot physically and mentally,” Evans said of the extended break. “It was a blessing in disguise.”
Rory MacDonald improved to 12-1-0 with a first round TKO of Mike Pyle (21-8-1). Constantinos Philippou (8-2-0, one no decision) won a split decision over Jorge Rivera (18-9-0). Brian Ebersole and Vitor Belfort earned dominant wins with first round TKO’s over Dennis Hallman and Yoshihiro Akiyama, respectively.
White announced that the gate was $1.5 million and the attendance with 11,583. Belfort earned a $70,000 bonus for knockout of the night. Evans and Ortiz split the $70,000 bonus for fight of the night.