Two of the most talented welterweights in the world will duke it out this Saturday night (September 17, 2011) as former UFC title challenger and ex-Strikeforce middleweight champion Jake Shields takes on the heavy-handed Jake Ellenberger in the main event of UFC Fight Night 25: Battle on the Bayou.
Shields is coming off his first loss in nearly seven years while challenging for the world title but he did prove that Georges St. Pierre was still human by sending the champ to the hospital after the fight. He decided to continue on with this main event despite the recent passing of his father which should be weighing heavily on his mind come fight night.
Jake Ellenberger has been campaigning for a big fight against an elite welterweight for quite some time now. He wanted Jon Fitch but he'll be getting Shields instead, who's just as tough. Ellenberger hits as hard as any welterweight on the planet and he'll be looking to connect and leapfrog his way to the top of the crowded UFC 170 pound division.
Will Shields be fueled by the loss of his father and win one last bout in memory of his old man? Can Ellenberger finally step up and win that big fight? What happens when an iron chin meets fists of steel?
Let's find out:
Record: 26-5-1 overall, 1-1 in the UFC
Key Losses: Georges St. Pierre (UFC 129)
How he got here: Up until his most recent defeat while challenging for the UFC welterweight title, Jake Shields hadn't lost since 2004. The Cesar Gracie product had gone on an unprecedented 15 fight win streak against some of the best welterweights (and middleweights) in the world.
His most impressive feat was when he defeated former current UFC number one contender Carlos Condit and recent UFC middleweight title challenger Yushin Okami on the same night at the Rumble on the Rock 9 in Hawaii.
The gritty Californian blitzed through EliteXC, taking out future UFC fighters Paul Daley and Mike Pyle en route to winning the promotion's title. If that wasn't enough of a challenge, he proceeded to move up in weight, thoroughly drubbing Robbie Lawler, Jason "Mayhem" Miller and Dan Henderson to win and retain the Strikeforce middleweight belt.
Shields eventually signed with the UFC and after cutting to welterweight for the first time in two years, he gassed badly but was still able to out-grapple the very tough Martin Kampmann to earn a title shot against GSP at UFC 129.
He was not able to take the fight to the ground (and didn't try very hard) but after injuring St. Pierre's eye with some loose fingers on some grazing punches, Shields actually ended GSP's consecutive round streak and made the fight significantly closer than any of his most recent challengers.
Despite the fact that his father died during his current fight camp, Shields decided to move on with the bout.
How he gets it done: While Shields was comfortable standing in front of St. Pierre for five rounds, that's the last thing he wants to do against Jake Ellenberger. No offense to GSP but Ellenberger hits like a mac truck and could very well put Shields' lights out if he can connect with a heavy power strike.
Shields is one of those wrestlers that has absolutely embraced Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Instead of simply dominating his opponent on the ground positionally, Shields will be looking to end the fight with a submission from start to finish. First of course, he'll need to get the fight to the ground.
The Cesar Gracie-trained fighter does not have the fastest shot so he'll need to do something special like catch a kick or time an Ellenberger power punch perfectly to shoot in and take him down. If that doesn't work, the clinch is Shields' friend.
Whatever he does, he doesn't want to give "The Juggernaut" room to land a fight-ending blow.
Record: 24-5 overall, 4-1 in the UFC
Key Losses: Carlos Condit (UFC Fight Night 19), Rick Story (SportFight 23)
How he got here: Jake Ellenberger has been calling out the elite talent in the welterweight division for quote some time now and he finally got his wish. He won his first 11 fights all by stoppage while fighting primarily in Midwest promotions near his Nebraska home before earning an opportunity to fight in the IFL.
Ellenberger had a rude awakening in his promotional debut, losing a decision to current Bellator number one welterweight contender Jay Hieron. He never quite got on track in the promotion, going 2-2 while also mixing in multiple fights with other leagues during his downtime to gain experience.
A solid four fight win streak while fighting for M-1 and Bellator earned "The Juggernaut" a trip to the UFC where again, he'd have a tough first fight against the former WEC welterweight champion Carlos Condit. Ellenberger blasted Condit early with some serious power but "The Natural Born Killer" bounced back to take an extremely close split decision in one of 2009's best fights.
Since that loss, Ellenberger has won four straight which includes three stoppage victories due to strikes. The Reign Training Center fighter most recently smashed Sean Pierson with a first round knockout at UFC 129 despite just taking the fight on 17 days notice.
How he gets it done: Jake Ellenberger needs to hurt Jake Shields standing, simple as that.
The Nebraska native has some of the heaviest hands of any welterweight in the world and he'll definitely need to land them hard if he wants to get the win.
Jake Shields can take a shot too so if Ellenberger hurts him, he can't let him back to his feet like Georges St. Pierre did at UFC 129. He needs to swarm him immediately and go for the kill. Any brief hesitation could cost him the fight.
The key for Ellenberger will be to land a strike with power without trying too hard and leaving a huge opening for an easy takedown. Perhaps what would work best would be if "The Juggernaut" can really work his jab. If he can find a home for a short, snappy punch then he can build confidence to throw that nasty power strike and hurt the former Strikeforce middleweight champion.
Ellenberger is an assistant wrestling coach at Nebraska so he knows a thing or two about grappling but the key difference is MMA vs. collegiate wrestling. The 26 year old still has a ways to go with his MMA wrestling as evidenced by his close call against Carlos Eduardo Rocha at UFC 126 earlier this year in which he was in a bad spot against the BJJ black belt.
Ellenberger needs to utilize the 'sprawl and brawl' technique to perfection if he wants to come away with a victory.
Fight "X-Factor:" One of the most intriguing miniature battles in this fight will be Jake Ellenberger's power versus Jake Shields' chin. Jake Shields is a fighter who's absorbed some of the hardest punches imaginable and kept coming. He ate an "H-Bomb" from Dan Henderson and bounced back to dominate the fight so what can Ellenberger's power do to him? Shields was also dropped by Georges St. Pierre in the fourth round and came back to potentially win that round as well as the fifth in his title fight. If Ellenberger can't finish the fight with a power strike, he may just awaken the beast instead.
Bottom Line: This is a battle of a wrestler-striker versus a wrestler-grappler. Someone has to prevail and it will entirely depend on where the bout takes place. If Shields can take the fight to the ground, he'll likely win a decision or perhaps score a submission. If Ellenberger can keep it standing, he'll likely win by decision or potentially a knockout. There are many interesting possibilities if the fight is a mix of both worlds as well. This is a very important match-up in the welterweight division as Shields is looking to build himself back up while Ellenberger is hoping to take his career to the next level.
We'll see who gets the last word come Saturday night.
Who will come out on top at UFC Fight Night 25? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!