By: William Holmes
Philadelphia has always been known to be a fight city. With the state of New York having difficulty passing MMA legislation, the UFC has no problems bringing pay per view cards to the city of brotherly love. This Saturday features a main event of two former light heavyweight champions square off against each other, as Tito Ortiz takes on Rashad Evans. It is likely that the winner of this fight will get a title shot against the Jackson vs. Jones winner.
Rory MacDonald (11-1) vs. Mike Pyle (21-7-1); Welterweight
An upcoming prospect takes on a cagey veteran, a standard formula for a UFC undercard fight that is on display here. Rory MacDonald has gone 2-1 in the UFC, with his lone loss coming against the surging Carlos Condit, and he holds a victory over former TUF champion Nate Diaz. MacDonald’s style and aggression has caught the attention of many pundits recently, and his repeated suplexes of Nate Diaz in his last fight is a moment that I will not forget. Xtreme Couture product Mike Pyle has been in the fight game since 1999, in which he made his professional fighting debut against Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Since joining the UFC Pyle has gone 4-2, with his most impressive victory coming against jiu-jitsu ace Ricardo Almeida. Pyle has the clear edge on the ground, as 16 of his victories have come by submission. However, MacDonald has a slight edge on his feet, and should be able to keep the fight standing. Given the choice, it’s probably wise to go with youth over experience on this fight, and MacDonald should win by decision.
Jorge Rivera (19-8) vs. Constantinos Philippou (7-2, 1 NC); Middleweight
Jorge Rivera, who is best known amongst MMA fans for his hilarious videos prior to his fight with Michael Bisping, has stated that if he loses this fight he may retire from MMA. Rivera is a long time veteran of the sport, who has never seemed to be able to take that step from journeyman/gatekeeper to legitimate contender. His last fight against Bisping showed that Rivera does not have the skill set necessary to be a top 10 fighter. His biggest victory to date was against Kendall Grove, nearly three years ago. Rivera takes on late replacement Constantinos Philippou, a Ring of Combat veteran who lost his UFC debut against unheralded Nick Catone. Rivera has always had problems against upper tier fighters, but against a mid level fighter as Philippou, he should have no problems. Rivera should win this fight easily by second or third round knockout.
Dennis Hallman (50-13-2, 1 NC) vs. Brian Ebersole (47-14-1, 1 NC); Welterweight
You have 129 worth of fight experience in this matchup between jiu jitsu ace Dennis Hallman and Officer Brian Ebersole. Hallman is best known for his two victories over former welterweight champion Matt Hughes. Since coming back to the UFC Hallman has gone 2-1, and has sent both Ben Saunders and Karo Parisyan packing. Ebersole has spent almost his entire career fighting in the smaller promotions, but has taken on the likes of Carlos Newton, Hector Lombard, Kyle Noke, Matt Horwich, and Nick Thompson. In Ebersole’s last fight he upset Chris Lytle in an exciting matchup in Australia, in which Ebersole impressed everyone. If Hallman can get this fight to the ground, he will have a large advantage over his opponent. He should be able to, as Lytle did not shoot for many takedowns when he took on Ebersole, and you should expect Hallman to win by second or third round submission. Perhaps a third match with Hughes is in the future if Hallman wins?
Vitor Belfort (19-9) vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama (13-3, 2 NC); Middleweight
This is the matchup that most fans are most excited about seeing on Saturday. Both fighters tend to put on entertaining fights, and are coming off of losses. Belfort had a brutal KO loss to Anderson Silva in his last fight. Prior to that fight Belfort was riding a five fight win streak, with four of those fights coming by KO or TKO. Akiyama lost his last fight in a close decision to Michael Bisping, and prior to that he lost by 3rd round submission to Chris Leben despite dominating the first two rounds. Unfortunately, many believe Akiyama is another overhyped fighter who did well in Japan, but can’t seem to cut it in the United States. Belfort’s hand speed will be too much for Akiyama to handle, and after this fight, Akiyama will either be cut or have to consider dropping to welterweight. If the UFC decides to keep Akiyama, it will be too fight on their rumored upcoming card in Japan. Belfort should win this by first round KO.
Rashad Evans (15-1-1) vs. Tito Ortiz (16-8-1)
Rematch. Their last fight ended in a draw, and was a fight that Ortiz would most likely won if he did not grab the fence during an Evans takedown attempt. Evans of course only has one loss, a brutal KO to Lyoto Machida. Ortiz won his last fight in a major upset against Ryan Bader by first round submission, and it was badly needed victory as a loss would have likely meant his departure from the UFC. Of course, having a big name such as Ortiz means a lot, and a victory here will likely lead to a title shot.
Both fighters have excellent wrestling, with Rashad having a slight edge in that department. Ortiz’s grappling however should not be discounted, as he has competed at the prestigious Abu Dhabi Combat Club competition, and nearly caught Machida with a triangle choke and submitted Ryan Bader. In the striking department, you have to go with Rashad Evans, as Tito Ortiz has never been known to have the ability to knock fighters out. He did however catch Bader with a clean right that rocked Bader in his last fight. The biggest question in this fight will be how will Evans game plan now that Greg Jackson is no longer in his corner? Evans certainly has a lot of talent, but a good corner and trainer goes a long way in this sport.
Rashad Evans should win this fight, and will most likely win by decision. However, don’t be surprised if Ortiz is doing the gravedigger celebration at the end of the fight.