The impressive six-fight win streak of top Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) contender, Jake Ellenberger, was snapped last night (June 1, 2012) by the remarkably tough and resilient Martin Kampmann in The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 15 Finale main event from The Pearl at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Ellenberger, however, nearly finished the fight in the first round after dropping "The Hitman" with a big punch. Kampmann was in major trouble, especially when the "Juggernaut" swarmed the dazed Dane with a flurry of punches in an excited effort to force a referee stoppage.
It never came.
On the contrary, Kampmann kept moving and attempting to avoid the ferocious ground-and-pound attack. It was apparently effective enough for Steve Mazzagatti to let the 170-pound fight continue, a decision that would eventually come back to haunt Ellenberger in the following round.
That's because not only did Kampmann recover, but as is often the case, he turned the tables and staggered Ellenberger with a short right shot to the temple in round two. Ellenberger, wobbled by the well-placed glancing blow, remained on his feet, but he didn't stay there long once Kampmann tracked him down and drilled him with three knees to the face.
Ellenberger dropped quick and Mazzagatti appeared to intervene even quicker, stopping the bout before the injured fighter seemingly had the opportunity to demonstrate the he -- like Kampmann the round prior -- was able to intelligently defend himself.
It's a split-second decision that didn't sit well with many fight fans. One that Ellenberger, naturally, addressed at the TUF 15 Finale post-fight press conference.
"That's up to the ref -- it's his discretion," said Ellenberger. "It's just the way it goes. I had him hurt. I thought I had him more hurt than he was, but he's tough, man. He battled back and stayed in there. I'm a little disappointed about the [stoppage of the fight].
But, that's just the way the ref … I thought I could have kept fighting or [he] possibly could have given me a chance to recover, but it is what it is," he continued. "It was Martin's night, you know?… He did hit me with a good one that rocked me a little bit. I tried to keep my balance, but he's in this position for a reason. He's a tough guy. He's up there -- I have a lot of respect for him."
Ellenberger, like most fighters in his position, would much rather be beaten into submission rather than live with the sliver of doubt and the "what if's" had the referee not intervened before letting the result play out. Even Kampmann, who himself was super close to being stopped just moments earlier, unsurprisingly, would much rather go out on his shield than be sent home (potentially) prematurely early.
"I cant tell you one thing: You can never count me out," Kampmann said. "I don't want you to stop the fight. I'm always going to be there, fighting until the very end. Don't stop the fight if I am the one who is hurt."
Mazzagatti catches a ton of heat for his decisions, particularly from UFC President Dana White. His inconsistent calls either come too soon or not soon enough. It's a fine line, especially when charged with ensuring the health and safety of two highly-trained and dangerous mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters.
Last night was a shining example of his inconsistency: Mazzagatti barely flinched when Kampmann dropped, but didn't hesitate when Ellenberger did. There's a middle ground in there somewhere and Mazzagatti needs to find it.
The good news is Ellenberger, for now, isn't crying foul. And White wasn't at the press conference to roast mustache man for another questionable call ... even if it was the right one.
To watch full video highlights of the TUF 15 Finale fight between Jake Ellenberger vs. Martin Kampmann, including both close calls, click here. For a detailed recap of the bout click here and for full TUF 15 Finale results click here.