Tito Ortiz is on a two-fight win streak, and Bellator MMA has a problem on their hands: exactly what to do with him.

Given Ortiz is a former light heavyweight champion under the UFC banner (the Coke to Bellator’s Pepsi), and given he’s a Hall of Famer in that organization who is still a draw, it would seem simple: you book Ortiz in big fights and get the most you can out of him with whatever mileage he has left in the tank. That’s what fight promoters do, right? Maybe you give him a title shot – after all, he has expressed interest before.

The case of Ortiz is rather curious, however: for the first time since 2006, he has won two in a row. For the first time in ages, he entered a fight as the favorite. For the first time in recent memory, he looked better than his opponent standing. Yes, Stephan Bonnar landed more strikes at Bellator 131, but Ortiz controlled the action, and landed more significant strikes, opening up Bonnar and no doubt swaying the judges, even if damage isn’t scored. If that makes you think we’re of the opinion that Ortiz got lucky with the judges, then let’s be clear: Tito Ortiz won the fight. That one judge saw it for Bonnar was really what was puzzling: for a large part of the fight, Bonnar looked like he didn’t want to be there, as well as looking like he shouldn’t be there.

That said, Ortiz beat (but couldn’t finish) a fighter who hasn’t got off the couch since 2012, when he suffered a devastating loss to Anderson Silva that saw insult added to injury after Bonnar failed a post fight drug test. Two years later at Bellator 131, the ring rust definitely showed, and it’s questionable as to whether or not Bonnar ever fights in Bellator again, as this experiment, for his part anyway, seems to have been a failure (Tito, on the other hand, at least showed up and did what he had to do, and was paid handsomely for it – $300,000).

Ortiz’s other win under the Bellator banner came at Bellator 121 (the ill-fated PPV), and was a quick submission of then-middleweight champion Alexander Schlemenko, who was fighting up in weight. To be fair, Ortiz was considered the underdog in that one, but when the two men stepped into the cage, the obvious size difference made it very clear that the oddsmakers had it wrong, and Ortiz simply overpowered the Russian fighter, taking him down and choking him out.

The end result is that Ortiz has two wins of questionable value in Bellator MMA. They’re not bad wins, and they’re against recognizable opposition — “name” opponents if you will — but they’re also not the sort of wins that vault you into title contention, even in the shallower ranks of Bellator.

On the other hand, the name Tito Ortiz still means something. Fans were firmly behind him Saturday night. There’s little doubt that it was his name that most casual viewers tuned in for, even if most dedicated MMA fans were more interested in the outcome of Brooks vs. Chandler 2.

So what do you do next? Ortiz has talked about retiring as Bellator champion. He has at least another fight on his contract. However, against Emanuel Newton or even Liam McGeary (who is fighting for the title in February 2015), Ortiz would be a serious underdog. There are some other big names out there in Bellator’s light heavyweight ranks: King Mo, Houston Alexander, Joey Beltran, heck maybe Scott Coker could convince the Janitor to come out of retirement. The biggest name of all, however, is someone Ortiz was previously linked to in the promotion — Rampage Jackson. Ortiz was scheduled to face him a year ago, but suffered a neck injury. Since then, Jackson has picked up a trio of wins in Bellator but appears to be MIA at the moment, and questions have come up as to whether he’ll fight again, period.

Maybe, just maybe, you give Ortiz the title shot, knowing that he’s unlikely to win it, but will still draw, and be a standout win on someone like Newton’s record. Maybe he even surprises us, as he has thus far, and snags one last moment of glory (hopefully, next time, without the middle fingers, that seems rather dated and childish at this point).

Either way, this last run in Bellator has given Tito Ortiz a chance to do something most though he had lost out on: the ability to go out on a high note.

About The Author

Senior Staff Writer

Covering the sport of MMA from Ontario, Canada, Jay Anderson has been writing for various publications covering sports, technology, and pop culture since 2001. Jay holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Guelph, and a Certificate in Leadership Skills from Humber College under the Ontario Management Development Program. When not slaving at the keyboard, he can be found in the company of his dog, a good book, or getting lost in the woods.