Before the pocket-sized fighters go to war in a 125-pound flyweight title fight, two of the division’s elite at 170 pounds will meet in the middle of the Octagon to settle their differences. Jake “The Juggernaut” Ellenberger and Rory MacDonald have had no respect for one another during the weeks leading up to their co-main event clash at UFC on FOX 8: Johnson vs. Moraga. An impressive win for either man will certainly boost their contender status in the crowded top half of the welterweight class.
Last time the Octagon spent a night in Seattle it was MacDonald who took on “The Prodigy” B.J Penn. The young Canadian rising star showed a more creative approach in the stand-up aspect of the fight, battering the Hawaiian with low-kicks, left hooks, knees and elbows. Penn couldn’t even tell what was coming at him. For MacDonald, it was the vast improvement that needs to be recognized here. Not just that he beat Penn, but the way in which he executed everything he set out to do in the fight.
MacDonald has strong grappling to go with his precise striking. Though he mostly goes for aggressive ground and pound from top position, he has shown the ability to work submissions as well – a submission win via armbar in his UFC debut can confirm that.
Ellenberger has been vocal about his game plan against the younger MacDonald: He is going to swing for the fences when the ref clears the ring, the Juggernaut’s right hand being the bat, the Canadian’s head as the ball.
The powerful puncher Ellenberger best exemplifies a fighter who has the power to knock any opponent out at any moment in the fight. It’s just a matter of can he hold his opponent off to make his punches meet their mark? Though the wrestler hasn’t reached super stardom in his UFC career thus far, he has stayed consistent with winning performances, and has had a ton of success cleaning anyone’s clock he connects with. Unfortunately for Ellenberger, he hasn’t shown the ability to even attempt submissions on the ground. So it’s safe to say MacDonald has more ways to win this fight – even if he has no plans to take it to the floor. That’s still something the Juggernaut must take into consideration.
Ellenberger, in his last showing at UFC 158: St. Pierre vs. Diaz against Nate Marquardt, showed a lot more resolve in his performance besides simply demolishing the one-time UFC middleweight title challenger,
Past: Both of these top contenders have a couple common opponents in Mike Pyle and Carlos Condit, two of whom that are also involved in incredible back-and-forth fights. The fights with Pyle were impressive technical knockouts for MacDonald and Ellenberger. Each of their fights with Condit were quite contrasting, but also somewhat similar. MacDonald took control of his fight with Condit by mixing up his punches and trip takedowns. Ellenberger went at Condit full-force trying to knock his head off, and almost did, but “The Natural Born Killer” is just that – one of the nastiest dudes you’ll see in the ring. It was Ellenberger who dished out the punishing strikes on Condit early, before he started to slow down and Condit turned up the tempo in the later rounds. MacDonald mostly just controlled Condit for the first half of the fight before Condit came back to inflict a ridiculous amount of punishment from top position until the referee had seen enough.
Present: The younger fighter in MacDonald seems to have a lot more drive to achieve success, whereas Ellenberger is plain and original with his style – mostly just going for knockouts and hoping for the best – and if he can’t catch his opponent and runs out of steam, he basically gets chopped down to half of his first round self. MacDonald, however, he carries the ambition to improve in all facets of MMA at just 23-years of age and still evolving by the minute. I mean, did anyone out there expect him to show up with such improved stand-up against Penn? Not me.
Future: No matter who wins this bout, it’s very likely that it’s gonna end very violently with someone’s lights getting shut off. A win in impressive fashion for either man can indicate that they’re ready to rumble with the reigning champion Georges St. Pierre.
With the one punch knockout power in his hook shots, it is very possible for Ellenberger to stop the steady rise of the Canadian. But don’t be surprised to see MacDonald looking like a stone cold killer without a scratch on him. He has said he will “technically embarrass” Ellenberger, and I believe him. MacDonald is all business once the cage door closes. Training at the TriStar gym in Montreal Quebec, Canada alongside the best welterweight around, Georges St. Pierre, the young 23-year old has the best of the best to accommodate his game.