Combate Americas: Breaking down Tito Ortiz vs. Alberto 'El Patrón' Rodríguez

Elias Cepeda
Yahoo Sports Contributor
Tito Ortiz smiles as he enters the Octagon prior to his light heavyweight bout against Chuck Liddell at The Forum on November 24, 2018 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)

“I’m sitting here, and I’m nervous, believe it or not. This is a scary match.”

Former UFC heavyweight champion Bas Rutten uttered these words during the American broadcast of a 2003 fight between Mirk “Cro Cop” Filipovic and a man then-called Dos Caras Jr. Rutten meant that the fight didn’t look like a good one for the masked professional wrestler.

He was right. Moments into the fight, Filipovic landed his trademark left high kick and knocked his opponent out. The felled man continued his MMA career as well as his pro wrestling one and is now known by Alberto “El Patrón” Rodríguez.

He faces Tito Ortiz this weekend and it may be another “scary match” for Rodriguez.  

Former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz (20-12) struggled to find wins before he retired in 2012 after an already long career. Since returning to action in 2014, however, “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” has won four out of five, with three of those coming by finish.

Ortiz has largely fought more age-appropriate opponents since coming back to the cage, though his taking on Alexander Shlemenko and Liam McGeary were big asks on his part and he still managed to fight well against both men and beat Shlemenko. His other wins have come over fellow aging legends Stephan Bonnar, Chael Sonnen and Lyoto Machida.

This weekend Ortiz fights again, and this time he’ll take on a much lower-caliber opponent in Rodriguez. Whatever legitimate fears may exist for fans of the 44-year-old Ortiz as he fights on into middle-age, Rodriguez should not pose any particularly bad threats to the UFC Hall of Famer in this Combate Americas main event.

The 42-year-old Rodriguez is best known for being a professional wrestling star and champion but he is also most certainly a real MMA fighter. Rodriguez has not fought since 2010, but he was active from 2001 up until that date as a pro.

Rodriguez faced good competition early in his career, and lost to most of those quality opponents. Rodriguez most notably lost to “Cro Cop” and Kazuhiro Nakamura in Pride, after a stint in Deep where he went 3-2.

Alberto Rodriguez is returning to competition for the first time in a decade, this weekend. (Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Combate Americas)

Rodriguez went 6-1 from 2006 to 2010 and improved his career mark to a solid 9-5. Still, Rodriguez has not faced an elite fighter since 2004, and has arguably never beaten one.

All of Rodriguez’s most recent wins came against regional fighters with rough records. Ortiz is certainly out of his own physical prime, though he tells Yahoo Sports that he feels better than he did during much of his 30s.

Ortiz’s recent opponents have also all been out of their physical primes. Still, though they were aged, they were aged elite fighters, which means a lot.

Ortiz has faced top-notch competition his entire career. This may be the first time he’s faced someone who isn’t an elite MMA fighter. While Rodriguez is a large, strong man and a game fighter, Ortiz’s experience and athleticism is at another level when it comes to fighting.

If Ortiz’s surgically repaired back and neck allow him to wrestle with any fluidity, he should be able to put Rodriguez down at will. Stand-up striking is always unpredictable, but Ortiz at least has superior offensive technique and still possesses no small amount of power in his right hand.

If Ortiz can get on top of Rodriguez without sustaining damage, he’ll likely be able to control and do damage from on top. It’s where Ortiz has always shone, and Rodriguez has not previously shown that he has the skills to deal with someone of Ortiz’s grappling and ground-striking ability.

By all reports, Rodriguez’s return to fighting mostly began just several months ago and I bet he’s had to spend a lot of his effort simply dropping down in weight. On the other hand, Ortiz has been training, sparring, and fighting regularly for years, now, which likely means his timing will be far more sharp.

Fighting is unpredictable, but from everything we’ve seen over the past nearly 20 years from both men, this matchup favors Ortiz.

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