With no UFC card last weekend, the MMA spotlight was fixed firmly on Bellator 170, which went down on Saturday night. This card was headlined by a light heavyweight fight between retiring MMA legend Tito Ortiz, and returning star Chael Sonnen.
In advance of this fight, Sonnen assured it was one he’d wanted for years, and one he was determined to win. Despite all of this pre-fight talk, however, Sonnen could not have looked much worse on fight night, as he was soundly out-grappled by the aging Ortiz, and ultimately wound up tapping out to a poorly applied rear-naked choke just over two minutes into the fight.
Sonnen looked so bad against Ortiz, in fact, that many members of the MMA community were quick to suggest that the fight might have been fixed. One of these people was former UFC welterweight title challenger and current UFC analyst Dan Hardy.
“The #Bellator170 main event was more choreographed than a Brittany Spears music video. Shame really… It might have been a fun fight,” Hardy said in a post-fight Tweet that has since been deleted.
According to Hardy, however, this Tweet was blown way out of proportion. During Monday’s edition on The MMA Hour, the fan favorite welterweight called in to elaborate on this Tweet, and explain what he really felt about this Ortiz vs. Sonnen fight.
“You’ve got to understand, I was being fatuous at the time,” Hardy told host Ariel Helwani. “It was a rather flippant comment, but watching the whole build-up, and I’ll give you exactly my perspective, from an analyst’s point of view. I saw Chael Sonnen selling this awesome story about how much it meant to for him to beat Tito, and the whole family thing came up.”
“My question is whether Chael Sonnen went into that fight with the intention of giving it everything he’s got,” he continued. “Because that was the story that he sold everybody, and that what was I was so disappointed with.”
Hardy then explained his many reasons for doubting Sonnen put forth his best effort in the fight.
“When [Sonnen] got in there, he did a very, very basic single-leg takedown, which even me with awful takedown defense could have stopped, and I’ll allow Tito’s the bigger man, but Chael’s been watching him his whole career. He’s been planning on fighting Tito for his whole career, so surely he would have prepped for that. Second of all, just the progression that he allowed Tito to get to mount, and the lack of defense of the arm. I mean, there was no hand fighting at all. And then the finish of the choke, it wasn’t even around his neck.”
“If you put your own head in that same position when you watch the fight, it’s silly to believe that…there’s a space, on the right side of his face, between the right side of your face and your right shoulder. And anybody who’s been in that situation and that position knows that it’s uncomfortable, yes, but it’s not a choke and it’s not a tapping position.”
“I don’t think Bellator had anything to do with it, and I’m not necessarily saying the fight was contrived in any way,” Hardy continued. “That was just my first reaction when I saw it because I couldn’t think of any other way that Chael would have rolled over like that. And then giving my perspective of the fact that Bellator brought him in basically as a mouthpiece to draw in an audience, but I just never got the impression that they expected him to do anything athletically. I mean, he’s 40 years old, and he’s been retired for a time. From my perspective it seemed like he was there to kind of give Tito this big boost, and he just looked like he didn’t want to fight.”
What do you think of Dan Hardy’s assessment of this Tito Ortiz vs. Chael Sonnen fight? Sound off, PENN Nation!
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 1/23/2017.