Jake Ellenberger showed again that he’s a potent finisher. | File Photo: Sherdog.com
With a destructive first-round stoppage, Jake Ellenberger elevated his career to new heights Saturday night in besting top welterweight Jake Shields.
Squaring off in the main event of UFC Fight Night 25 in New Orleans, Ellenberger shucked off a pair of early clinch attempts prior to landing a devastating knee and follow-up assault that prompted the stoppage just 53 seconds into the opening stanza.
Now 25-5, Ellenberger’s win over the former Strikeforce champ and UFC title challenger puts him in a strong position for the next title shot in the 170-pound division, depending on how impressive the victor of the Oct. 29 Nick Diaz-B.J. Penn scrap is. The win marked just the second time in Shields’ long career that he’s been stopped, and showcased the best elements of Ellenberger’s aggressive style.
On the undercard, TUF 11 winner Court McGee gutted out a tough unanimous decision over Dongi Yang, in a bout where McGee’s strong conditioning allowed him to score two late takedowns in the final round of a well-contested match.
Here’s a closer look at the night’s results, with the UFC Fight Night 25 Stock Report.
Jake Ellenberger: Tonight’s performance defines a perfect win, because it will resonate on multiple levels. Not only did Ellenberger deliver a crushing first-round stoppage of a highly respected contender in Shields, but he automatically built a viable marketing angle regardless of who wins the Oct. 29 welterweight title tilt between Georges St. Pierre and Carlos Condit.
If St. Pierre wins, Ellenberger finished a guy GSP never came close to stopping; if Condit upsets GSP and eventually faces Ellenberger, that’s a natural rematch of their 2009 bout in which Condit won by razor-thin split decision. There’s always the chance that Ellenberger may have to wait a bit for a shot, especially if Diaz gets by Penn in marketable fashion. But tonight he showed why he’s a handful for any contender, as his counter-wrestling, upper-body strength and all-in approach to striking paid huge dividends. Styles make fights, and Ellenberger’s ability to capitalize on the tiny opening Shields offered which led to the big knee and finishing assault is something you can’t teach.
There’s a reason Condit was an easy plug-in replacement for Nick Diaz to challenge St. Pierre, because he comes to take the other guy’s head off. Ditto for Ellenberger, and that growing reputation will serve him well because he pulled off something tonight that a lot of world-class fighters have come nowhere close to doing.
Court McGee: Heading into the third round of a tough scrap with Yang, McGee hadn’t been able to score a takedown on the tough Korean, whose judo and outstanding base denied previous attempts. But McGee kept pressing, and eventually wore Yang out with a strong closing effort that reminded viewers of why he won “TUF 11.” The guy simply never quits. McGee’s ability to master the small details of his craft, particularly with how he picks his shots and exits the opponent’s punching range after exchanges, are the product of a great work ethic. He also knows when to expend energy versus laying back, and picking the right time to do both is a great skill to harness, especially in a tough three-rounder where there is no clear advantage between fighters. Ideally, a match against Alan Belcher would be a great fit for both guys, as he and McGee would make a compelling bout.
Alan Belcher: “The Talent” is back, and served up a reminder why his nickname is one of the sport’s more appropriate monikers. Coming off an extensive layoff from injuries, Belcher was too big and strong for veteran Jason MacDonald. He and McGee would pose
stylistic problems for one another that would answer
questions of both men.
Erik Koch: Precise striking and a solid gameplan carried the featherweight to a decision win over Brookins Saturday night, as Koch’s takedown defense and excellent standup carried the bout. In a 145-pound division ruled by champ Jose Aldo, who defends against Kenny Florian Oct. 8, the division doesn’t have a lot of viable-case challengers outside of Chad Mendes, who’ll likely get the winner. Koch may have cemented his case to be next in line after Mendes gets his, and it’s a pretty marketable one. His speed, accuracy and counter-wrestling make him both fan-friendly and plausibly skilled enough to compete at the next level. He’s also turning 23 next month, which means he’s only going to get better down the road.
Dongi Yang: “The Ox” put up a whale of a fight against McGee, and displayed some heavy striking to boot. Unfortunately for him, McGee’s superior conditioning proved the difference (the two judges that had it 30-27 didn’t reflect the competitive nature of the bout, in my opinion, as Yang deserved the second round). With his southpaw slugger’s stance and excellent takedown defense, Yang still offers plenty of action-packed possibilities. Now 1-2 in the UFC, it will be interesting to see whom they pit him against next.
Jake Shields: It was devastating defeat for Shields, who suffered the loss of his father late last month. He was caught by Ellenberger and never recovered. This defeat gives the UFC a lot more latitude with how to match him, and that could serve as a springboard for him to run up another impressive streak.
Jonathan Brookins: The talented “TUF 12” conquerer simply couldn’t put it together against Koch. It isn’t like Brookins doesn’t have decent standup, but rather the case of the one element he needed to implement -- takedowns -- not materializing, leaving him pretty much unable to get anything going. The drop back down to 145 is off to a rough start for Brookins, but it wasn’t as though he was badly outclassed or blown out. Koch was simply the better fighter tonight.
Jason MacDonald: The longtime UFC vet has often served as a measuring stick for fellow middles, and tonight was a reminder of that caste assignment. When he’s on, MacDonald can unleash dazzling submissions and jiu-jitsu, but his limited standup game leaves him largely reliant on that phase of his game, the pitfalls of which were obvious tonight.