by Jeff Cain

When ‘The Huntington Beach Bad Boy,’ Tito Ortiz, and Ken Shamrock stepped into the octagon at UFC 56: ‘Full Force,’ and were announced as ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ season three coaches, I suddenly had the feeling of deja vu. The Ultimate Fighting Championship’s (UFC) light-heavyweight picture became crystal clear and oddly familiar. Tito Ortiz is back in the UFC, and in a big way. Ken Shamrock finally gets the one fight he’s been asking for every since his loss to Ortiz back at UFC 40: ‘Vendetta’ in November of 2002. It’s been three years, and the more things change the more they stay the same.

Tito Ortiz will be fighting Ken Shamrock with a bout against Chuck ‘The Iceman’ Liddell looming in the future. Sound familiar? The biggest obstacle in the way of Ortiz’ and Zuffa’s plans to have ‘The Huntington Beach Bad Boy’ and ‘The Iceman’ rematching for the UFC light-heavyweight title is Randy ‘The Natural’ Couture. The same Randy Couture that threw a monkey wrench in the exact same plan two and a half years ago at UFC 43: ‘Meltdown,’ in June of 2003, when he defeated Liddell in dominant fashion, and then went on to defeat Ortiz in an equally dominant display of game plan and skill.

This is the fight game and anything can happen. Forrest Griffin and Ken Shamrock will try their best to prevent the sequel of Liddell vs Ortiz from happening, but let’s be honest; Ortiz will probably be the heavy favorite going in to both of those matches. The biggest players in this made for television drama is: Chuck Liddell, the current UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion, Tito Ortiz, the former five time defending UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion, and Randy Couture, the former two-time UFC Heavyweight and Light-Heavyweight Champion. The names and faces may be the same, but their roles have certainly changed.

Tito Ortiz is no longer the champ, Chuck Liddell is. Randy Couture is not making his debut at light-heavyweight. Since then he’s won the light-heavyweight title, lost it, won it back, and lost it again. Randy’s role is the same now as it was then, the spoiler, the wild card; the one guy who’s made a career out of ruining Zuffa’s best laid plans. It’s hard to tell how Renato ‘Babalu’ Sobral, Stephan Bonnar, James Irvin, and Mike Van Arsdale fit into the ensemble that is the UFC light-heavyweight division, but it looks like they’ll have to settle for being members of the supporting cast.