Not many men survive an encounter with a Jake Ellenberger left hook. Not many men take a punch like Martin Kampmann.
Kampmann roared back from the brink to stop “The Juggernaut” on a second-round knee strike in “The Ultimate Fighter 15” Finale headliner on Friday at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. The 30-year-old Dane looked to be within seconds of being finished inside the first minute, when Ellenberger leveled him with a ferocious left hook. Kampmann somehow regained his senses on the ground, and by the time the first round neared its conclusion, the Dane had threatened with a guillotine choke and returned to his feet.
Ellenberger bloodied the Xtreme Couture Mixed Martial Arts export early in round two, opening cuts on his nose and above his left eye. Even so, Kampmann marched onward. He clipped and staggered Ellenberger with a short right hook to the temple and used the opening to initiate the clinch from which he fired the fight-ending knee.
This dramatic victory likely sets up Kampmann for a high-stakes showdown with the surging Johny Hendricks to establish the next No. 1 contender for the welterweight crown. Hendricks stands as a formidable hurdle. A four-time NCAA All-American and two-time national wrestling champion at Oklahoma State University, he has flashed brutal knockout power in compiling an 8-1 mark in the UFC.
Kampmann embraced the idea.
“I like Johny. I used to train with Johny,” he said. “I think me and him could make a hell of a scrap.”
In wake of “The Ultimate Fighter 15” Finale, here are five other matches that need to be made:
Jake Ellenberger vs. Josh Koscheck: If Ellenberger wants to progress to the truly elite levels of the welterweight division, he will need to address his ongoing issues with conditioning. He nearly finished Kampmann in the first round and battered him early in the second, only to grind to a standstill in the center of the cage, all while taking a series of deep breaths. His punching power will give him a chance against virtually any 170-pound fighter on the planet, but the possibility now seems very real that he will never develop the gas tank he needs to advance further. Judging by his post-fight reaction, Ellenberger will want get back on the horse with another top-flight opponent. Koscheck, anyone?
Mike Chiesa vs. Reza Madadi: The likability factor for Chiesa is off the charts, and his skills are nothing to scoff at, either. The 24-year-old became the latest in a long line of prospective mixed martial artists to win “The Ultimate Fighter” competition, and he did so in emphatic fashion. Chiesa stood firm in the face of heavy fire, took down Al Iaquinta and rendered him unconscious with a rear-naked choke 2:47 into round one. He now owns a perfect 8-0 mark as a professional, having finished his last five foes inside the first round. That trend says Chiesa is ready for a step up in competition. Madadi, a winner of seven straight, would certainly fit the bill.
Al Iaquinta vs. Ramsey Nijem-C.J. Keith loser: Iaquinta was the victim of circumstance and an opponent who would not be denied. The stars just seemed to line up for Chiesa. On the radar of MMA hardcores for quite some time, Iaquinta figures to be eased into the UFC rotation at 155 pounds. That could benefit the 25-year-old Serra-Longo Fight Team representative in the long run, affording him time to develop the skills that made him a finalist. Nijem, who reached the Season 13 final, will face the unbeaten C.J. Keith at UFC on FX 4 in three weeks. The man who falls short in that 155-pound tilt would line up perfectly for Iaquinta sometime this fall.
Charles Oliveira vs. Dennis Siver: Oliveira was superb in dispatching the durable Jonathan Brookins, as he submitted “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 12 winner with a beautiful figure-four guillotine choke in the second round. The 22-year-old Houston-based Brazilian has surfaced as one of the UFC’s most promising young featherweights and could be on the cusp of superstardom. Perhaps the time has come to pair Oliveira with a Top 10-ranked foe at 145 pounds. Siver, a brute of a featherweight, took a unanimous decision from Diego Nunes in April and would provide a stern test for the upstart.
Justin Lawrence vs. Daron Cruickshank: Two of the more intriguing talents on Season 15 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Lawrence and Cruickshank emerged from their promotional debuts with victories. Lawrence wiped out Hardcore Gym’s John Cofer with a third-round head kick and banked a pair of $40,000 bonuses for “Knockout of the Night” and “Fight of the Night.” Still rough around the edges, Lawrence wields a potent standup game and could ultimately prove to be the best long-term prospect from this season. Cruickshank weathered his meeting with Chris Tickle’s right hand and captured a unanimous decision. A matchup with Lawrence would promise the kind of fireworks the buying public craves.