On Saturday night the UFC returns to Philadelphia for UFC 133. The card is headlined by a light-heavyweight bout between Rashad Evans and Tito Ortiz. MMAFrenzy takes a look at what each fighter on Saturday’s PPV card must do to win.
Saturday’s PPV card starts at 9pm EST with prelims airing live on Facebook and Spike TV at 6pm and 8pm respectively. Stay tuned to MMAFrenzy for complete coverage of Saturday’s card.
Rashad Evans vs. Tito Ortiz
Keys for Evans- Surprisingly, Ortiz has fought twice since Evans last fought (UFC 114 in May 2010). It’s surprising since Ortiz has only fought three times in the last two years, and only five times since Ortiz and Evans first fought at UFC 73 in July 2007.
It is well known that Ortiz’ last win before his victory over Ryan Bader at UFC 132 was against Ken Shamrock nearly five years ago. Yes, it was a significant victory for Ortiz because, quite simply, he gets to keep his job. However, one win does not mean you’re “back” as Ortiz has tried to convince us.
Evans is still a more recent former champion. The first fight between this pair was Evans’ first significant fight in his UFC career. He has gone 5-1 since the draw with Ortiz. He can neutralize Ortiz’ strengths in wrestling and in takedowns. Is he as big as Ortiz? No, Evans is one of the smaller light heavyweights. But that did not prove to be an issue for Evans against the much bigger Forrest Griffin.
Evans left Greg Jackson’s camp earlier this year, and has started training at Imperial Athletics in Boca Raton, Florida. This should show a vast improvement in Evans’ striking, which he already holds an advantage over Ortiz.
The most specific advantage Evans holds is his elusiveness and speed. Bader looked to be fighting in slow motion against Ortiz at UFC 132. Evans will not make his moves as predictable, and thus, will be a much more physical challenge for Ortiz. Ortiz was out-grappled and out-wrestled against guys that are not even close to Evans in terms of speed, guys such as Forrest Griffin and Matt Hammil.
Evans is in his prime, while Ortiz looks to be past his. That is the most important of reasons on why Rashad Evans will win. -Bryan Robison
Keys for Ortiz- Tito Ortiz is determined to make a run and he wants to make sure everyone knows it. The storyline is so perfect that it almost seems scripted for Ortiz to pull a “Rocky II” in Philadelphia. The thing is, the UFC is not scripted. So what must Ortiz do to win?
Well for one, Tito has to be proactive with his wrestling. Yes, Ortiz was able to score a knockdown and finish on Bader but that is Ryan Bader and not Rashad Evans. Even though Ortiz scored a knockdown on Bader, Ortiz’s footwork was very rigid and he lacked head movement. Bader was hyperactive, got over confident, and let down his defenses against a former UFC champion. Evans will not make the same mistake. So Tito must use his wrestling against Evans as much as possible to dictate where the fight takes place.
Another big factor is that Tito must resist the urge to rush the fight by trying to end it early. This seems counter-intuitive since he is coming in on short notice and after a fairly massive weight cut but many fighters I have seen (and wrestlers I have coached) make big mistakes early thinking they can end the bout early when they feel fresh. The reason for this is that when fighters rush, they make mistakes and become vulnerable. Not to mention that if you rush, you burn more energy. So if you do not finish, you are exhausted.
In the end, Tito must win the bout by being tactically aggressive. It may not be the prettiest bout, but if Tito can control the pace and the location of the fight. He can pick up a decision and get one step closer to his dream of another shot at the UFC title.- Chris Leslie
Vitor Belfort vs. Yoshiro Akiyama
Keys for Belfort- Last we saw Belfort, he was wishing he had watched the Karate Kid. Luckily for Belfort, Akiyama is not Anderson Silva. Akiyama has a tendency to get a little wild with his striking. Belfort should take advantage of this by using his superior boxing to stun and eventually drop Akiyama. One more point of emphasis for Belfort is to circle away from the cage and avoid the clinch with Akiyama. It is not in the Unified Rules of MMA but it should be a rule to never clinch with a judoka. If Belfort can catch Akiyama pressing for the clinch, it could be a quick night for Belfort.- CL
Keys for Akiyama- I will try and refrain from calling him Sexyama and using that as the only reason why Akiyama will win. Please forgive me if I fail in bringing it up a dozen times.
Other than looks, Akiyama holds a better all-around style to challenge Belfort. No, his hands are not faster, nor does he contain as much power in his striking. However, Akiyama does hold his own in that department. No, he has knocked anyone out since joining the UFC. But, some of the shots he landed on Leben would knock anyone else out that is actually 100% human.
Akiyama will have to look to take the match to his realm, with his expertise in judo, and his efficient ground game. Belfort has always struggled with fights that last past the first round. In the last 10 years, in fights that last past the first round, Belfort is 3-4. He is 7-2 in all of his other fights that ended in the first round. Additionally, Belfort has only one UFC fight at 185 pounds, and only three overall. Akiyama seemed to have gotten his endurance issues out of the way in his most recent fight in October against Michael Bisping. As long as Akiyama avoids the early offense from Belfort, Akiyama can grind out a victory and gradually increase his aggression throughout the match.-BR
Dennis Hallman vs. Brian Ebersole
Keys for Hallman- The keys for Hallman against Ebersole are simple. First, avoid the cartwheel kick, because Ebersole will be looking to do another one in the octagon. Second, Hallman needs to stay true to his strengths. He needs to turn this into a grappling match because few are on his level when it comes to grappling.
Finally, Hallman must avoid something he has done a few times in his career, which is letting up at the end of rounds and/or cruising in the third round. Hallman tends to get out to a lead before fading late. He has to try to avoid a letdown against Ebersole. While it is difficult for him to have the best endurance since he has celiac disease. Hallman seems to now have control of his condition however, so it should not be a problem.-CL
Keys for Ebersole- It’s a shame that I can’t use experience as an advantage for a guy a with 63 career fights. Hallman has 66 of his own, so that reasoning is out the window. Ebersole has been more active as of late, including a victory over Chris Lytle in his UFC debut at UFC 127 in February. What most fans remember from that fight was Ebersole’s chest hair and his cartwheel kicks. Ebersole brings his personality into the ring with him, which is a refreshing sight to see.
In his 63 career fights, Ebersole has never been knocked out. Hallman only has five career knockout victories, so that seems to balance out for both fighters as null. Ebersole will be the much bigger man on Saturday. At 6’0, he is rather tall for a welterweight. He has fought as big as heavyweight during his career, while Hallman has never been above the middleweight division. With this fight nearly guaranteeing a ground spectacle, Ebersole will use his size to his advantage and attempt to neutralize Hallman’s grappling.
Since his victory over Karo Parisyan at UFC 123 in November 2010, Hallman has been diagnosed with Celiac Disease, which is a digestive system reaction to gluten. Hallman alluded to the issues this caused for him in training the past few months. This could be a factor in the later rounds of the fight, which the fight is expected to see.- BR
Costantinos Philippou vs. Jorge Rivera
Keys for Philippou- For Costa Philippou, it is pretty clear that that this fight could be a knockout of the night candidate. Both fighters have knockout power and Philippou has an overhand right that he manages to hide well against strikers. This is a bout where landing first is important. Expect Costa to set up that overhand right in an effort to separate Rivera from consciousness.- CL
Keys for Rivera- I know you’re wondering the same thing I am: Why is this fight on the main card? Your answer could be due to the fact that Rivera’s original opponent, Alessio Sakara, withdrew from the fight this week. I would respond with the opinion that even that matchup does not merit main card status.
Regardless of my feelings towards the fight, Rivera will hold the most distinct of advantages against Philippou: He hand picked him. Following Sakara’s withdrawal, the UFC allowed Rivera to pick his replacement, to which he chose Philippou. Plus, Rivera knows what he is doing in the ring. Philippou has just one UFC fight, a loss to Nick Catone at UFC 128 in March. Other than that, he lost in the preliminary rounds of The Ultimate Fighter: Liddell/Ortiz. Rivera can neutralize Philippou’s striking with his own, and will be more willing to take the fight to the ground.- BR
Rory MacDonald vs. Mike Pyle