Josh Gross
Sunday November 22nd, 2009

SI.com's Josh Gross offers all his insights from UFC 106.

When Dana White convinced casino magnates Lorenzo and Frank Feritta III to purchase the Ultimate Fighting Championship from Semaphore Entertainment Group in 2001, he did so knowing Tito Ortiz would be the lynchpin of the comapny's early promotions.

Not only did Ortiz carry the banner of the UFC light heavyweight champion, White managed the controversial Californian during his ascension to the title. At the time, Zufffa promoted half a dozen events a year, and if it seemed like Ortiz headlined each one, it's because he pretty much did. "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" appeared on UFC 29, 30, 32 and 33 in 10 months.

Coupling Zuffa's freshly scrubbed marketing push with Ortiz's brash personality, the Californian became the biggest name in the company when he throttled Ken Shamrock seven years ago Sunday. But things haven't been the same since. He lost the belt in his next fight against Randy Couture. Then Chuck Liddell handed consecutive losses for the first time in his career.

It has been a winding, frustrating road since. Injuries to his back and legs took away much of the power that marked Ortiz's early career. Now he returns with a new UFC contract and surgically repaired back.

Testing him Saturday in Las Vegas is Forrest Griffin, who helped lift the UFC in the latter half of this decade while Ortiz slumped. They know each other well, having fought to a split decision in 2006. Ortiz won, though not without some controversy. Tonight's result will determine which fighter, both former champions at 205, is closer to reclaiming lost glory.

12:15 a.m. -- Griffin hasn't fought since August, when Anderson Silva went Neo on him with a KO befitting The Matrix. He and his camp have essentially stripped the bout out of their lexicon. Randy Couture told me a couple weeks ago that it hasn't once come up in the gym, and won't.

12:17 -- Ortiz circa 2009 looks the same -- Punishment beanie, split American/Mexican flag, flame shorts -- walking to the cage as he did the first regulated UFC event in Las Vegas two weeks post-9/11. A short jog around the cage and "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" finds himself in familiar surroundings.

12:18 -- Tale of the tape: Ortiz 34, 6' 3", 205; Griffin 30, 6' 3", 205

12:19 -- UFC ring announcer Bruce Buffer usually brings it for Ortiz intros. And this one isn't any different, though the reaction from the crowd in Vegas sounds mixed. Plenty of boos. See, Tito is home.

Round 1 -- We should see early if Ortiz has some spring in his legs. Griffin lands an early combination. And Tito seems interested in testing Griffin on the feet.

First double-leg -- from pretty outside too -- is successful for Ortiz. From inside Griffin's guard, Ortiz is picking away. Short shots to the body followed by punches and elbows to the head. Griffin fights out of the position by going after a Kimura. Not sure if he meant it as a sweep or a sub, but it worked and the pair are clinched against the fense midway through the first. Ortiz takes it, 10-9.

Round 2 -- Ortiz times a Griffin kick perfectly and they're back on the canvas.

He didn't do a lot of work here in the first round. Ortiz is attempting to walk Griffin into the cage, and tries to pass. The extra space gives Griffin room to breathe -- and stand.

A front kick to the face knocks out Oritz's mouthpiece and referee Josh Rosenthal immediately stops the action to replace it.

Griffin is offering combinations now. Not a ton of power behind them, but his activity is troubling for "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy." A swift shot from Ortiz puts Griffin on his back again. But Forrest's guard is active and he's working more than Ortiz at this point.

A couple elbows land for Ortiz. He's staying tight, posturing when he can. And a strike lands for Ortiz that opens Griffin like a spigot. So, naturally, Griffin turns it on and sweeps Ortiz to half-guard. Griffin, bleeding all over Ortiz, fires short shots to close out the round. Rosenthal jumps in as Ortiz shoves off Griffin and moves to his corner. 10-9 Ortiz.

Round 3 -- First 60 seconds of R3 and it's all Griffin. He's throwing punches, kicks, anything. And Ortiz is standing in front of him and defending. Tito has to be baiting Griffin for something, a fight-winning takedown perhaps.

Two minutes down and Ortiz still hasn't thrown a strike.

He was waiting for a low kick and Griffin defended. They're standing in the center of the cage. Griffin is fighting with energy. Ortiz ... well, he hasn't done anything.

A right hand from Griffin connects to Ortiz's chin. He stumbles some, but appears OK. One minute to go. Ortiz needs to turn it on.

A double-leg is stuffed.

12:37 -- Ortiz has not done a thing in the third. Griffin didn't make him pay, but judges could see it 10-8 for Griffin. On my card it's a 10-9. Will another UFC main event end with fans and media feeling one way, the judges another?

12:41 -- Glenn Trowbridge sees it 29-28 for Ortiz. Lester Griffin, 30-27, Griffin. Marcos Rosales 29-28 for Griffin. Once again, a split decision between Tito Ortiz and Forrest Griffin.

12:47 -- Ortiz yells into the mic about his injuries. He says he had half-round of sparring total. And he says he walked into tonight's bout with a cracked skull -- evident by the black eye he sported in Vegas this week but evidently missed by Nevada State Athletic Commission doctors. Fans are booing, of course. They should. It wasn't two days ago that Ortiz told everyone he was in the best shape of his life. Yeah, I know, mind games and strategy. Just accept the result and move one. There's no reason to lay out a laundry list of reasons why you lost. Fans will probably be asked to shell out their money on a third fight. Ortiz, after all, is the king of rivalries and trilogies inside the UFC. And he's back home, even with Saturday's setback.

1:04 -- Let's not forget Griffin -- who, by the way, defended Ortiz during his post-fight diatribe. A win is a win. And he desperately needed it. A third consecutive loss would have removed any sense of relevance surrounding him. Thanks to his grit (and Ortiz hitting the "off" button), Griffin once again finds himself in position to take and make big fights in the UFC.

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