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No title implications, no problem for rubber match between Ortiz, Griffin


There will be no championship on the line. The winner will be no closer to a title shot when he walks out of the octagon than he was when he stepped inside.

After all, one of the fighters has won just once in his last eight bouts going back to 2006.

The other has fought just twice in the last two-and-a-half years, and has come out on the losing end in three of his last five.

Yet when Tito Ortiz announced via Twitter on Monday night that he and Forrest Griffin will step into the cage July 7 in Las Vegas at UFC 148, he was touting a tussle that means something.

It means something to Tito and Forrest because they've fought twice before and split the pair of split decisions. At least that's what the record book says. Ask either man and he'll make a case for why he truly won both fights. And each of these former UFC light heavyweight champions wants this rubber match to solidify his legacy.

For Ortiz, that legacy will be pretty much set in stone by the end of the night July 7. He's announced that the Griffin fight will be his last.

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And therein lies a big part of the reason why this bout also should mean something to fans of mixed martial arts.

Ortiz is one of the sport's giants, his career dating back 15 years to UFC 13, where he punched out a guy named Wes Albritton in 31 seconds before succumbing later in the evening to a Guy Mezger guillotine. Yes, he started way back in those prehistoric times when fighters would go at it two and even three times in a single night, the days of Tank Abbott, Tito's training partner at the time and a main event star that 1997 night in Augusta, Ga.

Things are a lot different in the UFC of today, of course. But we might not have been witness to any of that evolution -- from tough-man Tank to slickly skilled Anderson and Georges and "Bones" -- if not for Ortiz's UFC 148 opponent. Griffin is co-author of the most significant event in MMA history: the first Ultimate Fighter finale, in which he and Stephan Bonner slugged it out live on Spike and, over three thrilling rounds, solidified the struggling UFC's place in the American sports consciousness, or at least a segment of it significant enough to build upon. In the six years since that game-changing bout, there have been countless more technical displays of martial arts inside the octagon, and certainly a lot more gifted fighters have stepped into the cage. But if TUF had not been the sensation it was, and the UFC had limped off into the sunset, we'd have little more than hockey fights to feed our craving for combat.

Imagine a combat sports world with no UFC and a boxing scene in which the main attraction/repulsion is the arms'-length Pacquaio vs. Mayweather danceathon.

So you might say fans are indebted to Griffin and Ortiz.

That doesn't mean this fight is akin to balding Yogi waddling out of the dugout at Yankee Stadium for a slower-than-slow toddle to the plate on Old Timers' Day. Ortiz and Griffin still have pulses as fighters. Ortiz's is faint. He appeared to be at the end of the road last year before his timely upset of Ryan Bader in the summer. Conversely, timing took a toll on Griffin, who was riding a two-fight win streak last August when two consequential events coincided: his fight against "Shogun" Rua at UFC 134 in Rio de Janeiro and, back in the States, the birth of his first child. Talk about distraction. Papa Forrest might have been knocked out in under two minutes anyway, but the timing didn't help.

For Griffin, a fight against Ortiz isn't exactly a gauge of where he stands among the UFC's light heavyweight elite. A win over Tito wouldn't represent what it once did. But a loss? Forrest is at a point in his career where he must guard against becoming irrelevant. He has something to fight for.

And Griffin is always in for a fight. Just like Ortiz. Which makes them worth watching even now.