Saturday, February 27, 2021

Tito Ortiz vs. Chael Sonnen: Addressing the Rumors of a “Fix”

Saturday night’s Bellator 170 main event saw the last fight of Tito Ortiz’s legendary MMA career end with accusations of foul play.

As it often is in MMA, Saturday’s main event between two former UFC legends Chael Sonnen and Tito Ortiz failed to live up to the spectacle many had hoped it would be. It took just over two minutes for “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” to end the contest via submission, having looked as though he was in danger of losing the fight prior to his match-winning “rear-naked choke”. Ortiz pocketed around $300,000 dollars for the curtain-closing performance, while Sonnen opened his Bellator career with an ‘L’.

Following the fight, social media was heavy with activity suggesting that the bout was “fixed” and that Sonnen (not literally) “took a dive” to ensure that the fight went Tito’s way.  Sonnen’s efforts in attempting the guillotine backfired as he was promptly reversed by Ortiz, who manoevered himself to mount before taking control and forcing a tap via (an officially declared) rear-naked choke. The foundation of the “fix” accusations appear to stem from Sonnen’s poor submission defense, which was deemed slipshod. Despite allegations of ‘The American Gangster’ looking out of sorts in comparison to previous fights, there are a few factors which can be argued in his defense.

While no one is claiming that Ortiz’s execution in the choke was going to earn him applause Sonnen’s face was turning purple, and was inevitably going to tap at some point. A quick look through the Oregon native’s record will show that he holds only 5 of 29 wins via submission, but 7 of his 13 losses prior to Saturday were via the same method. While known for his wrestling pedigree, this statistic hardly indicates submission-defence mastery in any context.

Chael Sonnen is now 39 years old. This was his first fight in more than three years, and a fight in which we were certain that he did not have the assistance of (TRT) in providing him with that extra physical advantage which he may have had in previous bouts. It was clear to most that Sonnen did not look as strong as Ortiz, who held a clear advantage in athletic capability and held a real physical edge over his opponent.  This extra leverage was the defining factor in the Californian taking the win in his final fight, not Sonnen allowing him to do so.

While some will still maintain their view that the fight was somehow orchestrated to favour Ortiz, it is hard to argue with the fact that both men were well past their prime coming into the fight. The exhibition may have ended disappointingly, but this was a 42 year old in his last competitive fight versus a 39 year old who hadn’t fought since November 2013 with 3 losses in his last 5 matches coming into the bout. The draw of the headlining fight on Saturday was always going to be the nostalgia of watching two popular (but aged fighters) who were over the hill, rather than a technical masterclass between two fighters on top of their game. Considering this, allowances should be given to the quality (or lack of such) exhibited.