Jake Ellenberger finds himself on the rebound. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Jake Ellenberger (27-6, 6-2 UFC) vs. Jay Hieron (23-5, 0-2 UFC)
The Matchup: Once upon a time, Ellenberger was scheduled to face Josh Koscheck, but the “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 1 competitor was forced to withdraw from the bout due to a bulging disc in his back. In his place steps Hieron, who has not competed in the UFC since a 2005 loss to Jonathan Goulet.
A former International Fight League welterweight titlist, Hieron has done well for himself in recent years, winning 11 of his past 12 bouts, with his only defeat coming against current Bellator Fighting Championships 170-pound kingpin Ben Askren last October. In addition to notable victories against the likes of Delson Heleno, Pat Healy, Jason High, Jesse Taylor, Rick Hawn and Joe Riggs, Hieron also defeated Ellenberger in an IFL bout in 2006.
There are serious questions about Ellenberger’s conditioning coming into this matchup. In February, “The Juggernaut” faded badly but survived the final frame of a decision triumph over Diego Sanchez. He was not nearly as fortunate at “The Ultimate Fighter 15” Finale, where Martin Kampmann rallied from an early Ellenberger barrage to TKO the Nebraskan in round two. Again, Ellenberger started quickly, but his output began to diminish significantly in the second frame.
Hieron has been involved in a number of close bouts of late and has gone the distance in five of his last seven outings. Conditioning should not be an issue for the Xtreme Couture Mixed Martial Arts representative, but avoiding the powerful counterpunches of Ellenberger will. Look for the 36-year-old to attempt to keep Ellenberger at bay with a steady diet of leg kicks on the outside. Hieron will have to keep moving to avoid the heavy hands of his opponent while looking for opportunities to land counters of his own. He will have to be wary of Ellenberger’s left hook, however, as it almost finished Kampmann in June.
Hieron has solid boxing, but he was badly outwrestled by Askren. Ellenberger is a strong welterweight who is capable planting Hieron on his back and punishing him with ground-and-pound. The Reign MMA product’s base is strong enough that he should be able to dictate the location of the fight, and he should have the advantage in clinch situations, where he can land punishing knees against the fence.
The Pick: Hieron’s chances depend on his ability to frustrate Ellenberger by extending the fight. At 36, time is not on his side, and Ellenberger will be primed and motivated to rebound from a disappointing loss to Kampmann. Ellenberger wins by second-round TKO.
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