Monday, January 23, 2017

I Loved Tito Ortiz vs. Chael Sonnen

I am a sucker for the previous generation of mixed martial arts. I can't watch Michael Jordan nailing fadeaways in basketball, Glenallen Hill swinging for the fences in baseball, or, uh, Jim Miller? throwing that pigskin around at a competitive level anymore, but I can still watch MMA legends compete well past their prime. Bellator is delivering me those desired fights by matching up Tito Ortiz vs. Chael Sonnen.

I was never a big Tito Ortiz fan. His biggest run was during a pretty dark age for the UFC, and he had gone downhill by the time that MMA started to gain popularity again under new ownership and piggybacking off the success of The Ultimate Fighter. Still, he's an important part of the history of MMA, and he was known as a good trash talker back in the day. This man is a Donald Trump supporter who can barely string together a sentence, but he was able to talk circles around Ken Shamrock, who somehow managed to get worse at talking after spending years in professional wrestling.

On the other hand, Chael Sonnen was my jam. Sonnen played the part of the heel, and he enjoyed every second of it. Sonnen is incredibly intelligent, and he knows how to play the game and was the ultimate provocateur. He once accused the Nogueiras of petting a bus, because they thought it was a horse. I was nearly in tears at the ways that he insulted Brazilians, even though Big Nog and Wanderlei Silva are two of my favorite fighters ever. But when you were a fan of Sonnen, you kind of knew that you were in on the joke with him. None of it was said with animosity, and if you took it seriously, you had already lost. On top of all of this, he was a wrestler, and I have an incredible bias towards favoring wrestlers in mixed martial arts. He came incredibly close to winning titles in two different weight classes. Sure, everyone remembers how he was only a couple minutes away from completing a beatdown on Anderson Silva, but don't forget his match with Jon Jones. Sonnen got absolutely annihilated and finished in the first round, but had he lasted a minute longer, the ref would have had to stop the fight since Jones broke a toe while he was beating on Sonnen. It would have been the most Chael Sonnen win in history. Instead, we have Sonnen facing off against Ortiz.

Now was this fight objectively good? Oh, God no. But was it entertaining? Of course it was. Despite it being Tito Ortiz's retirement fight and a fight that is about three years after Chael Sonnen's retirement, I was still totally jacked to see these two fight. And for the two minutes that this fight went on, it gave me everything I needed.

Tito got some good shots in standing, looked to have a takedown but got outgrappled by the superior wrestler in Sonnen. Sonnen could have legitimately had a choke but didn't have enough confidence in his jiu jitsu to actually go all out for it. Then he did something stupid, let Ortiz mount him and gave up on the fight at that point. Ortiz finished him with a neck crank, because when things went south for Sonnen, there was no need for him to fight on; he already got paid.

Afterwards, Tito actually gave one of his best speeches for his retirement, and it's good that he goes out on "top" because he's an important figure who, with his delusions, will think that this cements his legacy, even though his legacy was decided a decade ago. Still, crazy people living in a world of crazy is the safest place they can be. Let Tito stay in his safe space.

What is most important for Sonnen is that he ran circles around Tito in the pre-match buildup, and that means he'll continue to get paid. We kind of knew that Sonnen was not likely to win the fight, and we'll likely know that he won't win his next fight. But I'll still watch. Because with both guys, winning the fight wasn't the main point. They were spectacles on their own. The fight was the sideshow.

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