Five Points: UFC 106 Ortiz vs. Griffin II

“Each of the Five Points is a finger,” said Bill “The Butcher” Cutting in the film Gangs of New York. “When I close my hand it becomes a fist. And, if I wish, I can turn it against you.”

Eighteen of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s mixed martial artists will enter the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Nov. 21 for UFC 106 Ortiz vs. Griffin II, make fists, and turn them against each other. Here are five points to watch for on Saturday night.

Second Scrap for a Second Chance

Tito Ortiz and Forrest Griffin’s last 12 months have been trying times for the former light heavyweight champions. Ortiz was persona non grata in the organization he became a star in, had surgery on his back, and flirted with other promoters to keep his name in the news. Griffin had the belt ripped away from him by Rashad Evans during the Georgian’s first title defense and was nuked by middleweight king Anderson Silva in August. With Ortiz claiming full health, Griffin can put Silva behind him by conquering another past defeat—a controversial split decision loss to Ortiz at UFC 59 in April 2006.

But Ortiz—the UFC’s longest reigning light heavyweight champion—still holds the 205-pound division close to his heart and the belt even closer. Since Griffin has been mixing it up with the world’s best win or lose, “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” has more momentum to steal. The Californian rightfully sought out master boxing coach Freddie Roach for this camp. When takedowns failed Ortiz in the first bout after a dominant first round, Griffin caught up standing. Working with Roach could help Ortiz pull away.

Griffin has proven to be a better fighter, though. His striking and grappling has improved enough to give Ortiz a rude awakening to the sport’s progress. His best weapon—his kicks—will be nullified by Ortiz’s overwhelming desire to ground-and-pound. Leaving his honeymoon early to fill in for Mark Coleman, Griffin’s usually top-tier cardio may be an issue. Likewise, Ortiz’s long layoff may diminish his trademark endurance.

The key for both is how the fight unfolds on the mat. Threatening with passes and submissions can reinvigorate Ortiz’s ground-and-pound because it’s easy to anticipate his attack from inside the guard—a sign the sport isn’t what it used to be during Ortiz’s reign. For Griffin, it challenges Ortiz and creates scrambles to return to his feet where the fight benefits him.

Emerging Welterweight Contenders

Josh Koscheck’s busy fight calendar and name recognition keeps him in contender talks. Anthony Johnson demonstrated scary potential working his way through UFC Fight Night events for two years until a pay-per-view blow out of Yoshiyuki Yoshida put him into new ranks of the division. However, “Rumble” missed weight for his 41 second bludgeoning of the Japanese judoka. Johnson’s punishment seems to be facing a Division I championship wrestler to test a ground game that has been largely unseen in the Octagon.

Koscheck, 2-2 in the last year, dropped those bouts due to strikes—Thiago Alves by unanimous decision and Paulo Thiago via controversial TKO. Enter the Cung Le understudy. Johnson’s upward trajectory can continue if he accelerates his pistons at the right times. Hitting Koscheck and dodging the Californian’s sniper-like takedowns and dangerous overhand right hand are necessary if Johnson wants to survive against a shark like the American Kickboxing Academy representative.

Light Heavyweight Dark Horses

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and his opponent Luis Arthur Cane are tough in a naturally different and dangerous way. Nogueira is the kind of tough that never tires and can endure his opponent’s best shots while Cane is the tough guy who doesn’t want to be anywhere else but in a fight. “Minotoro” takes a tactical approach while “Bahna” demolishes quickly, enthusiastically.

Typical of the style clash, Nogueira must come forward against Cane because the remorseless opponent can’t kill if he has no time to load his guns. That means combining his stellar boxing with inside clinches to wear down Cane. The brother of MMA legend Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira has a marked ground advantage so moving into a ground fight is another way to disarm his fellow Brazilian. However, Cane’s ferocity may overwhelm Nogueira like it did Mauricio Rua and Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou.
Rosholt Coming to a Halt?

Fresh off an arm-triangle submission over Chris Leben, Jake Rosholt takes on his second “The Ultimate Fighter” veteran, but this time it’s a winner. Season three’s Kendall Grove is the tallest middleweight in the division, posing lots of problems for opponent’s when the lanky Hawaiian employs his kendo stick-like muay Thai. Much like a then-relatively inexperienced Alan Belcher, Rosholt may struggle with Grove’s length standing and on the mat. The former Oklahoma State University four-time All-American takes a good punch and never exhausts himself in a grappling match. His athleticism edges him closer to victory as long as he has the experience to make the right in-fight adjustments.

Rosholt Coming to a Halt?

Fresh off an arm-triangle submission over Chris Leben, Jake Rosholt takes on his second “The Ultimate Fighter” veteran, but this time it’s a winner. Season three’s Kendall Grove is the tallest middleweight in the division, posing lots of problems for opponent’s when the lanky Hawaiian employs his kendo stick-like muay Thai. Much like a then-relatively inexperienced Alan Belcher, Rosholt may struggle with Grove’s length standing and on the mat. The former Oklahoma State University four-time All-American takes a good punch and never exhausts himself in a grappling match. His athleticism edges him closer to victory as long as he has the experience to make the right in-fight adjustments.

Welterweight Resurgence

It’s a difficult thing to be a Phil Baroni fan. For all his speed and punching power, the “New York Bad Ass” is often more talk than walk. After nearly five years away from the UFC, Baroni returns to the Octagon against a 1-1 Amir Sadollah.

“The Ultimate Fighter” season seven winner’s submissions skills are his only option against a wrestler who remains vulnerable to submissions. If Baroni remains his standing with any cardio, he can stop Sadollah for the New York native’s second straight bout.

After losing bitterly, Ben Saunders and Marcus Davis return to best one another. “Killa B” was knocked out by Mike Swick in his first career loss at UFC 99—the same night Davis dropped a split decision in a grudge match to Dan Hardy. A distinct grappling advantage allows Davis options in case he struggles against Saunder’s stinging muay Thai. Both have the knockout power to end it early, but Davis has to overcome range with an aggressive jab and ring experience or fall short battling another up-and-comer.

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