There aren't many times when a championship main event is largely overshadowed by the co-main event before it, but at UFC on FOX 8, which takes place tonight (Sat., July 28, 2013) at KeyArena in Seattle, Wash., that is exactly the case.
For a large number of reasons, fan interest is projected mostly on the Welterweight scrap between Jake Ellenberger and Rory MacDonald as opposed to the Flyweight championship match between Demetrius Johnson and John Moraga.
And that is certainly justifiable.
This pivotal 170-pound clash is one with serious title implications and it has even gotten a bit heated. One big narrative in this fight is the possibility of MacDonald winning -- and then fighting -- teammate Georges St. Pierre for his Welterweight title, but that is something that apparently still won't happen.
What's more, MacDonald is largely overrated as a fighter in his current status. And even though he has shown improvements from fight to fight, he is still incomplete. He has a very high ceiling, no doubt, but I do not think it is his time yet.
On the contrary, UFC on FOX 8 is Ellenberger's time to shine. The powerful welterweight -- known mostly for his brutal knockouts -- has come a long in a way an is a serious threat to any fighter in the division.
Unlike No. 1-ranked contender Johny Hendricks, Ellenberger is not just a big power puncher who can wrestle. He is becoming a technically sound wrecking machine, who has worked tirelessly to work out his deficiencies. He has progressively become more and more comfortable against tougher and tougher opponents, making this bout just another for the Reign MMA-trained welterweight.
Since entering the Octagon in 2009, Ellenberger has amassed an impressive record (8-2), which includes wins over Jake Shields, Diego Sanchez and Nate Marquardt, as well as a controversial split decision loss to Carlos Condit in his debut. In this stretch, Ellenberger has compiled five wins via (technical) knockout, an impressive feat against tough opposition.
The thing that makes Ellenberger so interesting heading into this fight is that he is just the type of fighter to derail the MacDonald hype train. The opponents Ellenberger has defeated have been undoubtedly more impressive than MacDonald's and yet he still finds himself ranked right behind "Ares" in the official UFC rankings.
What's more, Ellenberger is still a significant underdog heading into this fight.
When breaking down the fight, MacDonald's cardio and ground game is solid, while I would still give an edge to Ellenberger in striking, wrestling and experience. The thing that not too many people point out about MacDonald is that he is noticeably easy to hit -- even Che Mills got to him before MacDonald ground and beat his face into the mat for a technical knockout win.
Against Ellenberger, MacDonald might not have that luxury because "The Juggernaut" is a very strong wrestler offensively and defensively. And if MacDonald allows Ellenberger to land on him with the same frequency like Mills, he may not even be conscious to take a shot on him.
The only way I can see Ellenberger losing this fight is if he gasses, which is unfortunately quite a big possibility. In many of his longer fights, Ellenberger has shown that he doesn't have the cardio to push his opponents much after the first round, a situation that could come into play with such an athletic fighter such as MacDonald.
It is also possible that Ellenberger has worked on this as much as possible, or even that he can push MacDonald enough to where they are both just as tired heading into the later stages of the fight where the former could still press the latter and take home a huge win.
Ultimately, while most mixed martial arts (MMA) fans would disagree, I see this as Ellenberger's fight to lose and not the other way around. He has the power to end this fight whenever an opening shows itself, and against MacDonald, I'm inclined to believe there may be one or two.
He'll have to be very focused and in his best shape, but if he comes in at his best, I fully expect Ellenberger to be the next top Welterweight contender, which is the reason he is the "Fighter to Watch" tonight in Seattle.