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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
One hundred numbered UFC events ago, Tito Ortiz headlined Zuffa's first pay-per-view event since purchasing the UFC. Three title fights that went the distance led to the event going over time, and the pay-per-view cutting off before Ortiz's victory over Vladimir Matyushenko was finished.
At UFC 133 on Saturday night, four TKO finishes on the main card brought an end to the live fights by 11PM ET, a full hour before the pay-per-view broadcast was finished.
The injury-riddled card ultimately brought a mostly-entertaining night of fights, and had a few standout performances to go along with it. As a whole, the card went about as well as the UFC could have hoped for the fans in Philadelphia, finished off by an excellent performance from Rashad Evans in the main event.
Evans' second round TKO of Ortiz saw him in one of his smartest and most impressive performances in the Octagon. After getting taken down early by Ortiz, Evans turned things around by opening up with his boxing, hitting Ortiz with combinations against the cage and changing the complexion of the fight with a huge slam and some ground and pound work at the end of the first.
At times in his career he's had trouble holding on to top control once he's taken opponents down, but in the second round against Ortiz he worked from the top well, keeping Ortiz on the defensive with strikes and continuously looking for better positions. Then, when Ortiz got to his knees and left his body open, Evans delivered that vicious knee that was simply one of the more brilliant things any fighter has pulled off in the cage.
I've got to give Ortiz credit for his performance on such short notice. He came in against one of the best light heavyweights in the world with little preparation time, and threatened on a few occasions with his own offense, but ultimately this just proved how far Evans has come in four years. This performance should do a lot to make people realize the threat he presents to anyone in the division, current champ Jon Jones included.
The other really impressive performance on the card came from 22-year-old Rory MacDonald in the pay-per-view opener. Taking on a very solid veteran fighter in Mike Pyle, MacDonald showed why he's held in such high regard at a young age. After some back and forth action that saw some decent grappling between the two on the ground, MacDonald put Pyle on his back a few times and eventually dropped into his guard.
While there, he showed off an excellent ground and pound game, and hurt Pyle badly with his strikes in guard. As soon as a left landed flush to Pyle's jaw, MacDonald knew it was the beginning of the end, and he pounced on the hurt Pyle to finish the fight in the first round.
Another prospect that put together a really nice fight was Alexander Gustafsson on the Spike TV preliminary card. Gustafsson out-struck Hamill in the first round, and then turned on his output even further in the second. A huge flurry against the cage sent Hamill to the ground, and Gustafsson wound up in full mount on Hamill and ended him with a vicious ground and pound attack of his own. The loss was Hamill's second straight, and drops him down the ladder, while the 24-year-old Gustafsson will get a big opportunity to step up the ladder himself in his next fight.
Other short musings on UFC 133:
- Vitor Belfort did what was expected against Yoshihiro Akiyama, though for the second time in three fights punches to the back of the head played a big part in his finish. It's a tough situation to remedy, because with everything happening in the heat of the moment and the strikes being delivered in fast order it's hard to catch or to determine intent. One possible way to deter strikes to the back of the head in the heat of a finish would be fines after the fact by the commission. The blows are illegal and should be treated as such.
-Chad Mendes kept himself in line for his title shot, but it wasn't his most impressive performance in a decision against Rani Yahya. A hand injury could delay him, but he's undefeated and has fought some very tough competition, and I'm not sure who else would be tossed in front of him.
-Six fights went to decision on the card, including all four preliminary card fights on Facebook. A few were closely contested, but none of the fighters really stood out in their efforts from Facebook. A couple made the broadcast at the end of the night with an hour remaining, but they gave a rough start to the event as a whole.
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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