For July 2011, we had many famous and even some not-so-famous fighters put on thrilling performances. So, as you would expect, it’s tough to pick one fighter out of all the rest and crown him that month’s best fighter. But ultimately, I decided to go with the former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion that practically saved his career in the course of a two-minute fight. Here’s why “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” earns my pick for July 2011’s “Fighter of the Month”.
To really appreciate why Ortiz deserves an award like this, you have to look back and realize how strong of a departure Ortiz’s performance was at UFC 132 compared to all of his other recent performances.
Once feared as one of the baddest men on the planet, Tito Ortiz hadn’t won a fight since 2006. It all started with a humbling loss to Chuck Liddell. After that came a semi-controversial draw against Rashad Evans. And after that? Three straight decisions losses.
Back when he returned to the UFC, Ortiz contended that he had never felt better. After losing two straight fights, Ortiz contended that no one had stopped him and that he had only lost to some of the best competition in the world. As controversial as Tito can be, he did have a point, and the UFC ended up agreeing with him. Ortiz was given one last chance at UFC 132, and UFC President Dana White said several times in media interviews that Ortiz would lose his job if he lost the fight. It even became one of the largest selling-points of the encounter.
Ryan Bader ended up being chosen as the man that would either make or break Tito Ortiz’s UFC return and perhaps end Ortiz’s career entirely. Bader was coming off of a tough loss to Jon Jones, but had destroyed five other fighters in the UFC before meeting up with and being humbled by the eventual UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. With an overall record of 12-1 and as a winner of “The Ultimate Fighter”, a lot of people thought Bader was more than dangerous enough to not only beat Ortiz, but to beat him so badly that Ortiz might retire.
Nothing could’ve been further from the truth.
Ortiz and Bader met at UFC 132, and for that one night, the old Tito was back. After feeling out his opponent, Ortiz rocked and dropped Bader with a killer hook before securing a guillotine choke and getting the tap. Afterwards, Ortiz recreated his famous “gravedigger” routine.
Currently, Ortiz fights Rashad Evans at UFC 133 in a matter of days. To put that into context, Ortiz went from “one more loss and you’re done” to “we need you to fight the #1 contender” with just one performance.
It was said before the fight that Tito Ortiz fights best when his back is against the wall. And Ortiz didn’t just fight at his best, he fought like his life depended on it. In a way, it kinda did.
In the end, Ortiz saved himself from the brink in the most dramatic, amazing way possible. There were definitely other great finishes in the month, some of which could be said to have outdone Ortiz/Bader in terms of pure excitement. But the story behind Ortiz/Bader and the way Ortiz won leads me to believe that Tito Ortiz fully deserves to be named July 2011’s “Fighter of the Month”.