Liddell and Ortiz do it again
UFC 66 headlines Dec. 30 showdown two years in the waiting
Report & photos by Chris Cozzone
Two-and-a-half years ago when former champ Tito Ortiz stepped into the Octagon to take on UFC light heavy champ Chuck Liddell, it was to work his way back for a shot at the belt he’d lost to Randy Couture.
But the closest thing to a belt he received from the “Iceman” was the kind that puts you on your back, staring up at the lights.
Things have changed since then—at least that’s what one of the UFC 66-headlining fighters says about their Dec. 30th rematch at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nev.
“His time has come,” insisted Ortiz, 16-4 and undefeated in five bouts since his loss to Liddell, in a Las Vegas press conference last weekend.
“It’s time to get my belt back. I was not in a happy place when I first fought Liddell. Now, times are better and I’m focused.
“December 30th is going to be ‘Tito Ortiz Day.’”
Ortiz is not the only one who’s not lost a single fight since their 2004 showdown. But while Ortiz had to struggle through two split decisions—Vitor Belfort in 2005, Forrest Griffin in April, and has only been dominant in two wins-by-stoppage, both over Ken Shamrock in back-to-back bouts that totaled just 3:41—Liddell has won five straight, all by KO or TKO, including retiring Couture.
“He’s improved,” Liddell, 19-3, admits.
“But what’s different this time? There’s no difference. I’ve got the same style, I still train the same. I know, his goal will be to take me down. He knows he can’t stay on his feet or he’ll get knocked out. He’s already shown me what he can do . . .
“When they asked me if I wanted to fight Tito again, I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll knock out Tito again. Sure.’
“It’s easy to get motivated for Tito Ortiz. There’s no way I’ll ever lose to him, because I know the way he runs off his mouth. Knocking him out again will be fun.”
The UFC expects their record pay-per-view buys with their New Year’s Eve-Eve card.
The co-main event is a light-heavyweight match-up between Forrest Griffin and Keith “The Mean of Dean” Jardine that may see the victor fighting the winner of Liddell-Ortiz 2 next year.
Griffin, The Ultimate Fighter, Season One, champion, 13-3, is coming off a second win over Stephan Bonnar and very close split decision loss to Ortiz in his 2006 bouts.
Jardine, 11-2-1, lost to Bonnar earlier this year by a controversial decision, but rebounded with a strong win over Wilson Gouveia, only to lose out on the last UFC card when Mike Nickels pulled out of a fight just hours before they were slated to throw down in the Octagon.
“This fight has the potential to be closest to Griffin-Bonnar I,” says Jardine, referring to the 2005 that has been called one of the greatest slugging matches in UFC history.
“I know Forrest won’t run. I know he won’t back down. But I’ve gotten a lot better since Bonnar—a fight I thought I won. This is going to be a great fight.”
“I’m definitely game for that,” Griffin countered at last weekend’s presser. “Every fight he’s [Jardine] in, is a fight, so I’m going to have to start cutting the Mickey’s out now, and replace them with Xcience so I have enough sobriety for Dec. 30.”