The UFC in the mid-2000’s was way different era compared to how things are today. The rankings system was followed more, and there were not many fighters who called for “money fights” and marketed themselves in a brash manner.
In 2005, the first Ultimate Fighter season had just helped skyrocket MMA into the American household through the finale fight between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar. And because of their performance, better opportunities had opened up for both men.
Griffin, for one, was already matched up against former long-time 205-pound champion Tito Ortiz a year after his fight with Bonnar. The said fight took place at Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, California on April 15th, 2006 at UFC 59: Reality Check. It was also the first UFC event in California since the state lifted its ban on MMA competitions.
Entering the contest, Griffin had won his two succeeding fights after facing Bonnar. Ortiz, on the other hand, was also coming off a two-fight win streak against Patrick Cote and former UFC heavyweight champion Vitor Belfort, respectively.
The two men fought in front of a sold-out arena of 18,000 people, all of whom were screaming in anticipation. As the opening horn sounded, the two fighters immediately started slugging, but in the entire first round of action, it was Ortiz who dominated the fight with his patented ground-and-pound strikes inside Griffin’s closed guard.
The second round took quite a different turn, as Griffin found himself fighting a lot better after being cut up above his left eye by one of Ortiz’s ground-and-pound shots. He was stuffing all of Ortiz’s takedowns and was landing hard shots of his own. The broadcast team also recognized what they described as a more “Slowed down” Ortiz, after pointing out that he may have grown hesitant with his takedown attempts.
Griffin was able to carry the same pace through the third and final round, but not without Ortiz putting up a fight. The two men continued to exchange harder shots as the round drew to a close, much to the delight of the fans in attendance.
Ortiz ended up winning the fight via split decision, but it only turned out to be the first of three meetings. In those next two fights, however, “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” was no longer as lucky, as Griffin won both via decision.
Both Griffin and Ortiz have since retired, but the memory of this awe-inspiring three-round battle will remain for the generations to come.