Can Matt Hamill lay "the hammer" down on Tito Ortiz like he did to Mark Munoz at UFC 96? We'll find out Saturday at UFC 121. Photo by Jeff Cain/MMAWeekly.com
It will be teacher vs. student this Saturday at UFC 121 when former UFC light-heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz meets his No. 1 pick from "The Ultimate Fighter 3" Matt Hamill. Here is MMA For Real's preview of the fight:
Record: 15-7-1 overall, 14-7-1 UFC
Key wins: Guy Mezger (UFC 19), Wanderlei Silva (UFC 25), Ken Shamrock (UFC 40), Forrest Griffin (UFC 59)
Key losses: Frank Shamrock (UFC 22), Randy Couture (UFC 44), Chuck Liddell (UFC 47, UFC 66)
How he got here: What's amazing about Tito Ortiz is that he's spent all but one of his 23 professional fights inside the UFC. Ortiz held the light-heavyweight championship for three-and-a-half years, defending the title five times. Since losing the title to Randy Couture at UFC 44, Ortiz's career has been in limbo. Despite claiming he's fighting to get his world title back, he hasn't come close to accomplishing that. A five-fight winning streak saw him get a chance at Chuck Liddell's title at UFC 66, but he was TKO'd again by the "Iceman." Since beating Ken Shamrock in October 2006, Ortiz has not won a fight. He is fighting to remain relevant here.
How he gets it done: Ortiz is a ground-and-pound fighter. He isn't fancy. He wants to take you down, push you against the fence and elbow you into oblivion from guard. Eight of his 15 wins have come by KO or TKO, five by decision and two by submission. For all the hate Ortiz receives, he hasn't been submitted in more than 11 years and the only fighter to stop him with strikes has been Liddell.
X-Factor: Is the 35-year old Ortiz healthy? Time will tell. He claimed to be healthy heading into his last fight at UFC 106 against Forrest Griffin but complained of a cracked skull, among other things, in his post-fight interview. Ortiz had to pull out of his scheduled UFC 115 grudge match with Chuck Liddell with a neck injury.
Record: 9-2-0 overall, 8-2-0 UFC
Key wins: Mark Munoz (UFC 96), Jon Jones (TUF10 Finale), Keith Jardine (TUF11 Finale)
Key losses: Michael Bisping (UFC 75), Rich Franklin (UFC 88)
How he got here: Believe it or not, Hamill is riding a four-fight win streak heading into the biggest fight of his career here at UFC 121. A wrestler who got his start on "The Ultimate Fighter 3," Hamill's career has been interesting. By all accounts, he should've beaten Michael Bisping at UFC 75. He also was being crushed by Jon Jones when Jones was disqualified for using illegal elbows. Hamill picked up a good win against Keith Jardine in June and this fight will show us how he has progressed as a fighter.
How he gets it done: Like Ortiz, Hamill is primarily a ground-and-pound fighter. Lately, though, he has been utilizing his improving stand-up ability. Six of Hamill's nine wins have come by KO or TKO, including a chilling head kick KO or Mark Munoz last year. He has two decision wins and one disqualification win. Hamill's game is not stylish, but it's been able to get the job done for him against the competition he's facing.
X-Factor: This is, by far, the biggest fight of Hamill's career. He will be competing against a former coach, a mentor, someone he greatly respects and admires. How will he respond to having to try to beat up his former coach? That's the question here. All the pre-fight talk means nothing. It's about how he responds when he steps into the cage Saturday night. I have no doubts Hamill can handle the pressure of the fight itself, but who he's fighting? That could be another story.
Bottom line: I just can't pick Ortiz in a cage fight here in 2010. He is old, injury prone and hasn't evolved his skills to compete in 2010. Still, this will be an interesting fight. Who's going to initiate the first takedown attempt? Who's striking is going to be better? Does Ortiz really know a ton about Hamill and how to exploit his game? I'm looking forward to this fight for that reason. Although we know it's not going to be K-1 level striking in there, there should be considerable tension on both sides. Ortiz needs a win badly here, possibly to save his career. He has to lay it all on the line. I don't think it'll be enough. Expect a fired-up Hamill to win a decision.
Who do you think's going to win? Let us know in the poll and express why in the comments section!
Who will win at UFC 121?
Tito Ortiz (34 votes)
Matt Hamill (44 votes)
78 total votes