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Loss should close book on Ortiz’s UFC career

Somewhere today, Gary Shaw would be smart to erase a few zeros on that offer sheet.

It’s a good thing Tito Ortiz has his autobiography coming out — “It will be at Barnes & Noble, so check it out,” Ortiz shamelessly plugged to an adoring UFC 84 crowd Saturday night shortly after being predictably handled by Lyoto Machida — and his legacy and his clothing line and the whole Jenna Jameson angle going. (Not that there is anything wrong with that).

He just wouldn’t want to dive into the free-agent market on skill alone. It would be a pretty shallow pool right now.

Could this possibly have gone better for the Ultimate Fighting Championship and Dana White? Only if it had ended sooner inside the MGM Grand Garden, which actually would have been better for everyone sleeping through three rounds.

If this was indeed Ortiz’s final fight for the company that he helped grow into the biggest and best in mixed martial arts history, the unanimous-decision defeat for the light heavyweight progressed exactly how you imagine White hoped and expected.

Months of often entertaining and sometimes monotonous trash talk between UFC president and the aging legend overshadowed a significant point: Machida is now 13-0 for a reason, and while his uninteresting style makes Floyd Mayweather Jr. seem like an undisciplined brawler, it was the perfect counter to Ortiz, who when at his best years ago could effortlessly shoot at legs with power and take opponents down.

The only thing Ortiz took down Saturday was air, although he almost tackled the cage a few times. It was like watching Chris Byrd attempt to box last week, a once great champion having succumbed to diminished skill.

It was sad.

Ortiz had a fleeting chance late when he got Machida into a triangle choke (I am told this has nothing to do with the percussion family), but the better fighter escaped.

Machida said he would have died before tapping out, and such passing would have been solely from embarrassment given how easily he controlled the deliberate pace.

“I’m going to fight for three or four more years,” Ortiz amazingly proclaimed. “I’m leaving for greener pastures.”

How much of it will be in the form of cash is unknown. Someone will sign him. Ortiz is still marketable. Fans love him. They will pay to watch him. He wouldn’t be a terrible free-agent signing. He’s not the Mike Hampton of MMA.

But whether it’s Shaw and EliteXC or another company that makes a deal, Saturday’s loss took from Ortiz much of that magic word when it comes to negotiating: Leverage.

“Tito Ortiz is going to be around, no matter what,” the fighter told a soldout arena. “Make sure you buy the pay per view.”

I tried to laugh at that point but was distracted by a blinding light. I’m pretty sure it was Dana White’s smile.

* This just in: When a guy lying on the canvas is twitching from his head and shaking at his feet, it’s not a good thing.

Money came in late on light heavyweight Keith Jardine, but all those tickets were being shredded in 36 seconds, which is how long it took Wanderlei Silva to knock Jardine out in a frightening manner.

There are bad positions to be in when it comes to MMA, but I’m guessing that having your opponent hold your chin in place with one hand and beat your head in with the other ranks among the worst.

Once he regains all his faculties (put the over-under at Wednesday), Jardine might want consider plastic surgery. Maybe some granite in the ol’ chin region, given he has now balanced a win against Chuck Liddell with quick knockout losses to Silva and Houston Alexander last May.

The latter came in 48 seconds against a guy better known at the time for his talents as a radio disc jockey than as a fighter.

* I didn’t have a favorite UFC fighter before now. That changed with B.J. Penn.

Not only for his ability, although the way he took apart steroids-free (we think) Sean Sherk in a lightweight championship bout was impressive. No, my allegiance stems from the fact it’s difficult not to support a guy with that powerful a kick and this much of an environmentalist conscience:

“Thanks to all the fans who came out,” said Penn after his knockout of Sherk at the end of the third round. “I know the price of gas, so thanks for coming out.”

Yep, times are tough. You have to figure a gallon of petrol now costs far more than those UFC undercard fighters made Saturday.

Ed Graney’s column is published Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. He can be reached at 383-4618 or egraney@reviewjournal.com

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