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UFC 51: Tito Ortiz vs. Vitor Belfort

By Cliff Montgomery,
In front of more than 11,000 screaming fans at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, an old warrior once more recalled his magic. Tito "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" Ortiz narrowly defeated Vitor "The Phenom" Belfort by the most narrow of split decisions (29-28, 29-28, and 28-29) in the electrifying main event of UFC 51.

Tito Ortiz ("The Huntington Beach Bad Boy") vs. Vitor Belfort ("The Phenom")

It nearly ended in the first round for the former champion Tito Ortiz, who was slammed with a big left by Vitor Belfort and began bleeding heavily from the nose. Tito Ortiz maintained his composure, and eventually rained down punches and elbows on Vitor Belfort with a minute and a half to go.

Vitor Belfort nearly captured victory again in the second, putting Ortiz in a guillotine choke that looked to many like a winning move--until "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" was able to escape by rolling to his back. After that strong move by Tito Ortiz, Vitor Belfort countered with a series of elbows that appeared capable of finishing the former champion; but it would be Vitor Belfort's last truly effective series of the fight.

By the third round, matters had switched completely; now it was all vintage Tito Ortiz, as he ground and pounded a wilting Vitor Belfort all over the mat for nearly the entire round. On this night, the worn out Brazilian did his best to hang on until the end.

At the sound of the final horn, an ecstatic Tito Ortiz made a tear through his legion of fans, clearly feeling he had shaken off the ghosts of his recent past--two embarrassing losses.

Evan Tanner vs. David Terrell (UFC Middleweight Championship)

In the exact opposite of what many predicted, Evan Tanner became the UFC Middleweight champion with a dominating performance over submission wrestler David Terrell.

The fight began at a blazing pace. After escaping a couple of Terrell's submission attempts, Tanner turned on the gas and started slamming punches and elbows from the half guard into Terrell until the inevitable stoppage end.

The 33-year-old Tanner wins this one in fine fashion, with a TKO in Round 1.

Andrei Arlovski vs. Tim Sylvia

Belarusian Andrei Arlovski lived up to all the potential he's been putting on display for the last couple years as he quickly dismantled former champion Tim Sylvia, submitting him with an ankle lock at 0:47 of the first.

The two traded well on their feet to begin the fight; however a stunning shot by Arlovski was quickly followed by the finishing move. Arlovski won handily, via a submission in Round 1.

Pete Sell vs. Phil Baroni

A frightful 'performance' from Phil "New York Bad Ass" Baroni, a former contender who again ran out of gas and lost big.

Though lacking spirit, Baroni did fight competitively for the first couple rounds, and even looked to have found ways to pull out a win. But by the third the tank was once again tapped and a guillotine choke mercifully finished him off. Sell wins this one via submission in Round 3.

Paul Buentello vs. Justin Eilers

In a thrilling slugfest, "The Head Hunter" Buentello landed a crushing knockout shot to the chin of Eilers, who had vowed he would stand and trade--in hindsight, it was a foolish vow. Buentello simply had too much power. His victory at 2 minutes and 34 seconds by KO in Round 1 hailed Buentello as a new power-punching force in the heavyweight division.

David Loiseau vs. Gideon Ray

Everyone agrees that this one was a great fight. Loiseau was very aggressive, blasting Ray in both a standing position and in furious ground and pound action. A big standing knee, followed by either an elbow or punch on the ground opened up a disgusting cut on the side of Ray's head, which resulted in a doctor stoppage of the fight after Round one.

Those who have followed Loiseau know that winning by doctor or referee stoppage from a brutal cut is nothing new to the Canadian striker. Loiseau is your winner, via doctor stoppage after one round of action.

Karo Parisyan vs. Chris Lytle

All seem to agree that Parisyan dominated this one. Lytle tried for a leg submission, but it was Parisyan who got the takedowns, and who usually worked for the submission attempts against his opponent Lytle. It was never really close: Parisyan was your winner via unanimous decision after three rounds of action.

Nick Diaz vs. Drew Fickett

Diaz came close to quickly defeating Fickett with an armbar, but Fickett slipped the attempt. But 4:40 into the first round Diaz took the match, finishing Fickett with a blistering ground and pound flurry which forced the referee to jump in and call a halt to the action. Diaz won this one in splendid fashion, with a TKO in Round one.

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