In August 2009, Jake Ellenberger got the call he had been waiting years for.
Chris Lytle was injured and the UFC needed someone to fill in against Carlos Condit at a Fight Night in Oklahoma City the next month. Despite having fought in June for Bellator, he was relatively fresh since it took the wrestler less than a minute to viciously knock out his opponent.
After nearly five years and almost 25 bouts, "The Juggernaut" caught a lucky break and took full advantage of the opportunity.
This has eventually led to what will be his first headlining bout this Saturday (September 17) at UFC Fight Night: "Shields vs. Ellenberger" where he takes on former title contender Jake Shields.
We'll take a look at that debut as we prepare for this weekend's event.
With only a month to prepare but still relatively fresh from his training camp two months prior, Ellenberger stepped inside the Octagon for the first time on September 16, 2009 almost exactly two years from his fight this weekend.
He was facing a hungry Carlos Condit who felt robbed of a decision when he took on Martin Kampmann in the New Mexican's UFC debut.
What unfolded that evening in The Sooner State was one of the most exciting and surprising fights that year. It was a true coming out party for Ellenberger who made his claim as one of the sport's top 170-pounders.
Let's dive in.
Ellenberger immediately takes the center of the Octagon, pressuring his much more experienced foe. A body kick from the former WEC champ is caught and met with a punch from Ellenberger that lands right down the pipe.
"The Natural Born Killer" drops to his back and Ellenberger follows suit, landing in Condit's guard. Condit begins working a rubber guard but "The Juggernaut" shoves him against the cage, forcing the New Mexican to abandon the technique.
From here, it's Mark Coleman 101: dominating wrestling control combined with vicious punches and elbows. For nearly two minutes, Condit is on the defensive before cage crawling -- sliding his back up against the cage slowly-- back to his feet. A kick from the WEC veteran misses and a straight from the UFC debutee cracks "The Natural Born Killer" on the chin.
Not learning from his mistakes, Condit throws another body kick that Ellenberger easily counters. "The Juggernaut" follows with a hook that rattles Condit and backs him up against the cage. The crowd begins to roar as another punch forces the former WEC champion to the mat.
He covers up and defends well but with Ellenberger standing over him and landing punch after punch, the threat of a referee stoppage must loom heavily on Condit's mind.
He rolls around to avoid damage and ends up turtled in front of the UFC newcomer. Ellenberger attempts a D'arce choke but can't get it latched on entirely and Condit is able to escape and get back to his feet. He grabs his opponent's head, yanks it down and throws a couple of knee with deadly intentions.
Ellenberger breaks free of Condit's grip and unleashes a wild, looping hook that grazes "The Natural Born Killer's" skull. It was enough to drop the already woozy warrior.
Back on his stomach, Condit is once again prone to Ellenberger's ground and pound. Several hammerfists land unanswered until the WEC veteran grabs onto both of "The Juggernaut's" legs and nails a double-leg takedown. He lands in Ellenberger's half guard but quickly transitions to full mount.
The small victory doesn't last long as Ellenberger is able to simply push Condit off of him and as they both stand, the UFC newcomer slaps on a standing guillotine. He drags his opponent to the mat and wraps his legs around Condit's waist to help exacerbate the submission.
Condit rolls himself and his opponent over and slips out of the choke. They're quickly back on their feet and a head kick from Ellenberger lands and dazes Condit for a split second. Condit is on the proverbial ropes.
Less than a minute into the second round, Ellenberger ducks under a punch and lands a picture perfect double-leg takedown. Shoved against the fence, Condit is unable to land any effective offense while his opponent dominates position on the ground.
With less than two minutes remaining, Condit attempts to lock up a kimura. He doesn't get the submission but he forces Ellenberger to roll out of the submission. "The Natural Born KIller" sweeps his opponent and lands in full mount, ready to land ground and pound.
Ellenberger squirms around, eventually giving up his back. Condit tries to take full advantage but "The Juggernaut" proves too wily and reverses the position, winding up back on top. The round ends soon after and fans in Oklahoma City and across the country watching at home realize they're lucky enough to still have one more round.
The final stanza starts off like what the opening round was supposed to. Each fighter is patient and finding their range with jabs. But Ellenberger -- after eating a head kick, chewing it up, and spitting it out -- takes Condit down and lands some ground and pound before both fighters end up back on their feet.
Flipping the script, "The Natural Born Killer" executes a takedown of his own and gives Ellenberger a taste of his own medicine. Condit exhibits dominant positional control, savvy submission attempts, and brutal ground and pound.
But with less than 90 seconds, "The Juggernaut" is able to counter an armbar attempt and reverses his opponent and they're back on their feet half a minute later.
Ellenberger gets a single-leg takedown attempt stuffed and the former WEC champ takes his back and lands punch after punch until the horn sounds.
The first and third rounds were easy enough to score. Ellenberger ran roughshod over Condit in the first but the New Mexican was able to control the action in the last five minutes. It was the razor-thin close second round that was the deciding factor.
In the end, two judges gave that round to Condit, giving him the win.
Since then both fighters have been on tears. "The Juggernaut" has rattled off four wins and finds himself headlining his first event this Saturday. A win this weekend could put him next in line for a crack at Georges St. Pierre's welterweight crown.
Or perhaps he will rematch "The Natural Born Killer" if he is able to take the title from the French-Canadian next month?
As good as the first fight was, how great would a second be?