LAS VEGAS, July 7 – It wasn’t the fairytale ending many hoped for, but the newest member of the UFC Hall of Fame, Tito Ortiz, had no reason to hang his head in his final bout as a professional mixed martial artist, as he lost a razor-thin three round unanimous decision to Forrest Griffin in their rubber match at the MGM Grand Garden Arena Saturday night.
Scores in the UFC 148 co-main event were 29-28 for Griffin, now 19-7.
“It felt close,” said Griffin. “I think we’ve had three draws.”
Ortiz defeated Griffin via split decision in their first bout in 2006; Griffin returned the favor in 2009.
Called to the center of the Octagon for the last time by referee Steve Mazzagatti, Ortiz landed first with a nice right hand that knocked Griffin off balance, but the former Ultimate Fighter winner fired back with a series of kicks. Ortiz then closed the gap and scored a takedown, adding in his trademark ground and pound before Griffin scrambled to his feet with a little more than three minutes left. The two traded hooks, with Griffin then sprinting into the striking lead with a follow-up series of shots. Griffin was clearly the faster of the two while standing, but Ortiz saved whatever bursts of speed he had left for his takedown attempts. Griffin sprawled out of trouble on the next Ortiz takedown, and he eluded the Californian’s rushes and haymakers before sending back his own strikes. Ortiz was able to get a takedown just before the bell though, giving his foe something to think about.
Showing off the underrated striking power that got Ryan Bader in trouble in their 2011 bout, Ortiz sent Griffin sprawling early in the second round, provoking cheers of “Tito, Tito” as Griffin cleared his head. Following the scare, Griffin tightened up his striking and defense, and then chants of “Forrest, Forrest” rang through the arena. Ortiz was visibly gassed as the round progressed, yet he gamely trudged forward.
The third began just like the second played out, but then Ortiz shocked everyone with a knockdown of Griffin followed by a takedown once the Las Vegan got up. Emptying his gas tank for a final charge, Ortiz tried to make every strike count as Griffin worked for submissions from his back. With two minutes left, Griffin made it to his feet and bulled Ortiz to the fence, with the fighter formerly known as “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” knowing that his last big chance may have faded away. A big right hand by Ortiz just missed the mark, and Griffin went back to calmly picking away at his longtime rival, making sure his chin was tucked and his punches were straight as the seconds ticked away. When it was over, Griffin inexplicably left the Octagon, but he returned seconds later as the packed house stood and cheered for one of the UFC’s greatest champions.
“I gave it my all,” said Ortiz, who was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame earlier on Saturday. “I had heart, I came in and I fought.”
He retires with a record of 17-11-1
PATRICK COTE VS CUNG LE
40-year old Cung Le achieved a career long goal in middleweight action, as he won a three round unanimous decision over former 185-pound title challenger Patrick Cote.
“I feel great,” said Le of his first UFC victory. “I was gonna do a backflip, but I’m too tired.”
Scores were 30-27 across the board for Le, now 8-2; Cote, who was returning to the UFC after going 4-0 outside the organization, falls to 18-8.
The southpaw Le got the crowd into the fight immediately with a throw of Cote down to the mat, and then the kicks started coming as Cote moved forward and into the line of fire. The Canadian didn’t back down though, and as he proved that he could take some of Le’s best shots, he would occasionally send some back at the San Jose resident, though not with nearly the same accuracy or steam behind them.
With Cote starting to pick up the pace and his work rate, Le settled into counterstriking mode for a stretch in the second round, and the more “The Predator” scored, the more the crowd roared. Soon, there was blood on the faces of both fighters, Le over his left eye, Cote on the right side of his head. With less than a minute left, the two locked up against the fence after some jarring punches from Cote, staying there just before the bell rang to finish the round.
Le opened his third round scoring with a left kick to the head, but Cote looked to be the fresher of the two as he muscled his opponent into the fence. Upon breaking, Le went back on the attack, but Cote closed the gap and tied up again. This time, Le got a quick takedown, and after the two rose, he rebuffed one of the Canadian’s attempts. Now Cote appeared to be winded, and Le took advantage with some stiff strikes and another takedown. Cote tried to be active from the bottom, but it was Le still on top as the fight ended, both literally and figuratively.
Hear what Le had to say after his first UFC win
DEMIAN MAIA VS DONG HYUN KIM
Welterweights watch out. Former middleweight contender Demian Maia made a memorable first impression in the 170-pound weight class, stopping Dong Hyun Kim in just 47 seconds.
Rushing to take Kim down, Maia locking up with the Korea native and was able to trip him to the canvas. As Kim fell, he appeared to hit his head on the bottom of the fence, stunning him, and Maia pounced, landing a couple punches before referee Mario Yamasaki stepped in to halt the fight.
With the win, Maia moves to 16-4; Kim falls to 15-2-1 with 1 NC.
Watch Maia's post-fight interview
CODY MCKENZIE VS CHAD MENDES
In his first fight since losing a UFC featherweight title fight to Jose Aldo in January, Chad Mendes was “Money” in taking only 31 seconds to stop Cody McKenzie.
Looking for the body shot almost as soon as the bell rang, Mendes soon found it, dropping McKenzie (13-3) with a right to the solar plexus. The finishing barrage of ground strikes was just window dressing as referee Steve Mazzagatti intervened to rescue the hurt former Ultimate Fighter competitor.
“We knew that was something that we thought was gonna work against Cody and we worked a lot on that in camp,” said Mendes, now 12-1.
Hear what Mendes had to say in his post-fight interview
MIKE EASTON VS IVAN MENJIVAR
Bantamweight up and comer Mike Easton made it three for three in the UFC, scoring a three round unanimous decision win over Ivan Menjivar.
Scores were 30-27 twice and 29-28.
Outside of a left kick to the head by Easton that knocked Menjivar off-balance, there was little action of note in the opening four minutes of the first round, with both fighters off target with their punches for the most part, relying instead on the occasional leg kick to grab some points.
The fans didn’t fare much better in round two either, as neither fighter took the risks necessary to take the bout to another level in terms of compelling action. Menjivar was crisper and more active with his counterstrikes though, allowing him to use that and his constant movement to keep Easton stalking but not scoring.
Easton showed a considerable sense of urgency as he came out for round three, and the hooks he landed early on clearly had more steam on them. But after Menjivar weathered the attack, he settled back into his move and counter mode as Easton chased. Midway through the round through, Easton surprised Menjivar and everyone with a lightning fast takedown of the El Salvador native. After eating a few ground strikes, Menjivar got to his feet and went back to work, Easton following right behind and missing some flashy kicks in the closing seconds.
With the win, Easton improves to 13-1; Menjivar falls to 24-9.
Watch Easton's post-fight interview