If this was truly Tito Ortiz' final curtain call, he couldn't have gone out any better. A grudge match with Chael Sonnen had been laced with a ton of vitriol as the two jawed at each other for months leading up to the main event of #Bellator170. Ortiz had to endure numerous references to the time that Sonnen defeated Ortiz in a mere 44 seconds when they met in a collegiate wrestling match back on January 23, 1998. He waited nearly two decades to get some payback.
On January 21, 2016, #TitoOrtiz would finally get his redemption with a first round submission with a rear naked choke in front of his hometown fans at The Forum in Inglewood, California.
Coming out to his usual entrance of Eminem's "Mosh" with his trademark Mexican-American flag and his son, Jacob, flanking him, Ortiz made his final march to the cage. Daughtry sang the National Anthem and The Huntington Beach Bad Boy pridefully covered his heart with his hand and sang along.
On this night, #ChaelSonnen didn't have a chance in hell to defeat Tito Ortiz. All Ortiz had to do was allow it to manifest itself in the cage.
Coming off of a loss to Liam McGeary last September, Ortiz appeared to have a different fire in his eyes as both he and Sonnen were introduced. He stood in a fighting stance as John McCarthy offered for the two fighters to touch gloves. There would be no touching gloves on this night.
Ortiz bolted out of his corner and shot for a takedown. Sonnen managed to sweep and land in top position as he tried to cinch in a D'arce choke. With Ortiz unwilling to offer his neck, Sonnen shifted to a guillotine from half guard but was far from threatening to finish the hall of famer.
With his last gasp, Sonnen squeezed but Ortiz' head popped out and he immediately mounted "The American Gangster." With his vaunted ground and pound ready to be unleashed, Sonnen quickly gave up his back as Ortiz wrapped his right arm around his neck. He didn't have the choke in too deep, but he simply wouldn't be denied. Ortiz squeezed from a tough angle that served more as a neck crank as Sonnen's face turned a dark purple and elicited the tap out at the 2:03 mark.
"It felt really, really good," Ortiz said. "I knew if I shot on Chael he wasn't going to be super strong. He never had me in that guillotine and we worked on the choke because I knew he wouldn't want to deal with these elbows raining down on him."
He was 100% right.
With a career that began back in 1997, Ortiz has seen the highest of highs and lowest of lows. Every time he attempted to retire, he couldn't stay away. But it appears that this is the proper way to go out. The former UFC light heavyweight champion exercised his final demon against Sonnen and can depart the sport on a high.
"I don't think the emotions have really set in," Ortiz said. But he made it clear that this was it.
"This will be the last time I will be in this cage," he continued. "As we do in wrestling, we retire our wrestling shoes. Tonight, January 21, 2017 I'm going to let me son lay these gloves down right here in this Bellator cage because this is the last time I'll be fighting. Thank you for the support for these 20 years."
Ortiz finishes his career with a record of 19-12-1 with a host of accolades.
Whether you loved or hated Tito Ortiz, you cannot deny his impact on mixed martial arts.