Three years ago at UFC 59, former light heavyweight champions Tito Ortiz and Forrest Griffin locked horns for the first time. The back-and-forth fight left the crowd electrified, and the judges undecided on who the winner was. When the final bell rang, the judges awarded the bout to the “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” via a razor thin – and much debated – split decision.
Since then, Griffin has gained and lost the light heavyweight strap, beaten two of the best 205-pounders in Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.
Ortiz, on the other hand, suffered a loss to current champion Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida and disappeared from the UFC after failing to come to terms on a new contract. The Southern California fighter has also had a well documented surgery and subsequent recovery for an injured back.
With two storybook careers meeting in the Octagon for a second time, the stage was set for a memorable end to a memorable night.
Forrest entered the cage to Chumbawumba’s 90’s hit “Tubthumping.” The song’s chorus—“I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down”—describes the massive light heavyweight’s career to date. After back to back losses courtesy of Rashad Evans and Anderson Silva, the former police officer emerged from the ashes to headline UFC 106 against the man who narrowly defeated him in their first bout.
On this night, Griffin would have his redemption, using pure work ethic to even the score en route to a razor thin split decision of his own.
True to his word, Ortiz came out looking to make a statement early. He displayed improved striking in the opening moments, catching Griffin with a right cross. A trademark Ortiz takedown followed shortly after, drawing a raucous applause from the Mandalay Bay crowd of 10,529. From the dominant position, Ortiz went to work, battering Griffin’s body and face with punches and elbows. As a big 205-pounder, Griffin would not be kept on the mat for long. After getting out from under Ortiz, Griffin was again hit with an Ortiz combo. But in a sign of what was to come, stuffed an Ortiz takedown late in the opening stanza.
Round two opened up with another overhand right from Ortiz followed by a takedown. With the dominant position once again, Ortiz did indeed make a statement. A left elbow opened up a cut on the left side of Griffin’s face, sending the original Ultimate Fighter’s DNA running like a leaky faucet. The second round would end in seesaw fashion with Griffin sweeping Ortiz to overtake the top position. As the seconds ticked to a close, many believed—rightly, as it turned out—that Griffin stole the round with the sweep and subsequent forearms from the top slot.
With the crowd on their feet as the two cage warriors rose for a final five minutes of battle, Griffin proved that superior cardio makes the difference between a win and a loss. Ahead on one score card, down on another, and all even on the third, Griffin went to work on a visibly exhausted Tito Ortiz. With a gassed Ortiz assuming the role of human punching bag, Griffin punched and kicked his way to what could’ve been an arguable 10-8 round. However, when the bell rang, the capacity crowd was unsure of whose hand would be raised. Ortiz felt he won the fight; Griffin remained unsure.
The judges scored the contest 30-27, 28-29, and 29-28.
With the outcome of the bout now in the history books, Griffin wasted no time advocating for a rubber match.
“Tito, I think we’re going to have to do a third, we’re one and one man,” he said. – Anthony Springer Jr