Two of the most talented welterweights on the planet will collide this Saturday night (March 16, 2013) as Jake Ellenberger takes on former Strikeforce welterweight champion Nate Marquardt on the UFC 158 main card in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Ellenberger was on a tremendous roll in the UFC, putting himself in title contention with a series of devastating knockouts and top performances, but he was knocked off course by Martin Kampmann. After avenging a loss to Jay Hieron, he's looking to get right back in the mix among the top contenders again if he can put on a show against Marquardt.
Marquardt made the best of his UFC release, winning Nick Diaz's vacant Strikeforce welterweight title in a tremendous battle against Tyrone Woodley but his reign at the top didn't last very long as "The Great" was upset by Tarec Saffiedine in the final fight in Strikeforce history. He'll be trying to bounce back in his UFC return this weekend.
Record: 28-5 overall, 7-2 in the UFC
How he got here: Jake Ellenberger 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. He had a rude awakening in his promotional debut, losing a decision to Jay Hieron and 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 current UFC interim 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 five straight which includes four stoppage victories due to strikes. The Reign Training Center fighter smashed Sean Pierson at UFC 127 and then followed it up with by far the biggest victory of his career, a 53 second drubbing of former title challenger Jake Shields, stopping him for the first time in over 10 years.
"The Juggernaut" followed up his incredible knockout with a main event victory over Diego Sanchez, dominating the first two rounds before fading late in the third.
His streak was brought to an emphatic end against Martin Kampmann but he bounced back by avenging an earlier career loss to Jay Hieron in a rather uninspired performance. He'll be trying to get back to his dominant ways this weekend.
How he gets it done: Ellenberger has some of the heaviest hands of any welterweight in the world and Marquardt looked extremely hittable in his last bout. Marquardt is a fighter that thrives when he's on the offensive, so Ellenberger should follow a similar gameplan to Tarec Saffiedine and just outwork him.
If Ellenberger can really put some pressure on Marquardt, he could force "The Great" to really slow down and potentially absorb some serious punishment. We all know how nasty Ellenberger's punches can be, but he also possesses some brutal knees on the inside so if he can close the distance and really start working his strikes in quick succession, he could force the veteran to wilt.
If Marquardt freezes like he did in his last bout, Ellenberger could potentially finish him via strikes and become the only man other than Anderson Silva to do it, which would be a tremendous feather in his cap.
Record: 32-11-2 overall, 10-4 in the UFC
How he got here: Nate Marquardt, believe it not, has been fighting consistently and professionally for over 14 years now. "The Great" began his career in 1999, winning a pair of one-night tournaments before heading over to Japan to compete in the Pancrase promotion.
After losing his debut to Genki Sudo, he moved up to middleweight and went on a nice run, eventually earning a shot and winning the "King of Pancrase" title in that division for the first time in the promotion's history. Marquardt would eventually become "King of Pancrase" three times during his six year run with the promotion.
Eventually, Marquardt was signed by the UFC and after winning his first four bouts, he was given a title shot against Anderson Silva, although he would be TKOd at the end of the second round.
Since then, Marquardt was constantly on the verge of getting another shot at the belt but always fell short whether it was a goofy loss to Thales Leites, getting outwrestled by Chael Sonnen or getting outworked by Yushin Okami. He eventually made the drop to 170 pounds and was slated to headline UFC on Fuel TV 4 last year but it was discovered he had misused his TRT treatments and his ratios were too high.
Marquardt was immediately pulled from the main event, kicked out of the UFC and spent the next 9 months in MMA purgatory. Eventually, all was forgiven and he was signed by Strikeforce to vie for the promotion's vacant welterweight title, where he defeated Tyron Woodley via vicious knockout to capture the belt.
After losing his belt to Tarec Saffiedine, Marquardt is hoping to make a quick turnaround, stepping in as a replacement to take on Ellenberger in his UFC return.
How he gets it done: Marquardt is incredibly well-rounded but he's especially dangerous on the feet with some serious knockout power. Who can forget his 21 second thrashing of Demian Maia or the brutal knockout of Woodley to win the Strikeforce belt?
Marquardt has proven in the past that he can still be strong in the later rounds, like his insane video game-esque third round knockout of Wilson Gouveia, so his goal for this fight is simply to weather the early storm from Ellenberger. We all know how dangerous "The Juggernaut" is in the first round as he's finished a plethora of opponents there, but his ability to stop opponents drops drastically if they get out of that first frame.
The former Strikeforce champ needs to get that confidence in himself and really start attacking again. He wilted badly against Saffiedine's pressure and leg kicks and he can't afford to have a second straight shoddy showing. Ellenberger can get very wild when pursuing a knockout, look no further than the Kampmann fight where he was caught coming in and finished. Marquardt has the technique and experience to pull something similar off.