The Ultimate Fighting Championship has recently been gaining steam when it comes to its mixed martial arts events on the Fox television network. While the first few events after the much-heralded debut did not garner the attention desired, the promotion’s most recent showcases have been ratings successes. This is because of a shift in focus towards entertaining title fights in the main event, and important, relevant fights as co-featured fights. As we approach UFC on Fox 8 on July 27th, the bout that is expected to stand out in that co-main event spot as an important contest within its weight division features Rory MacDonald taking on Jake Ellenberger in a bout that could determine the next welterweight title contender behind Johny Hendricks.
Ellenberger was once considered by fans and pundits to be the best man to defeat current champion Georges St. Pierre, until cardio issues came to light during his bout with Diego Sanchez at UFC on Fuel TV 1. Even though he was able to pull out that win, in his next bout, at the TUF 15 Finale, Martin Kampmann would stop him, derailing his momentum. Since that defeat, Ellenberger he has rattled off two wins, including a stoppage over former middleweight contender and Strikeforce titleholder Nate Marquardt in his last fight, at UFC 158 this past March, but “The Juggernaut” still draws concerns for the way he has gassed out in fights in the past. That’s a problem that he has to overcome if he wants to leapfrog the fighters ahead of him at 170 pounds.
MacDonald seems to be being groomed by the UFC as the future of the welterweight division. He’s just 22 years old and has put together a 14-1 record, with his only loss a last minute defeat to Carlos Condit at UFC 115. He hasn’t faced the level of competition that Ellenberger has during his 3 years with the promotion, but that hasn’t stopped his rise to fame. But what makes his contendership so interesting is that he is a training partner of welterweight champion George St. Pierre at Tristar gym in Canada. He’s done well with avoiding the question so far, but it seems much more likely that he would be open to facing GSP for the title if the opportunity presented itself than some of St. Pierre’s other training partners.
When comparing these two individuals, the major questions that stand out are whether MacDonald’s chin is ready to be tested by Ellenberger’s power, and whether “The Juggernaut” has the ability to hang with “Ares” for fifteen full minutes. We’ve seen Ellenberger stop people in the past with one blow, but MacDonald has done a good job avoiding big shots that can end fights — the exception being that contest against Condit. The longer this fight is drawn out, the more it seems to favor MacDonald; however, Ellenberger has the ability to bring this contest to a close at any moment.
MacDonald’s ability to fight off and score takedowns of his own will also be vital in this fight, because Ellenberger is a wrestler at heart, even though he has not leaned on those abilities recently. He has the potential to grind out a 15-minute decision, so look for MacDonald to keep the pace high while on the feet in hopes to wear down his opponent. In what should be a fast-paced fight right from the start, Rory should take over in the second and begin to impose his will from that point forward towards a decision victory.
The winner of Rory MacDonald vs. Jake Ellenberger can be looking at a title shot if he can pull off an impressive victory. The welterweight division is historically one of the toughest weight classes in the sport, and a win at UFC on Fox 8 places one of these two competitors on a collision course with either the man that has ruled the division for a long time, or the man who unseated him. Millions of eyes will be watching MacDonald-Ellenberger, and the fighter who comes out on top could shine brighter than he ever has.