Two extremely unpredictable welterweights will clash this Friday night (June 22, 2012) as long-time veteran Brian Ebersole takes on submission ace T.J. Waldburger on the main card of UFC on FX 4 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Ebersole is now 3-0 in the stacked UFC welterweight division after waiting over 11 years to finally get his shot with the big show. He's amassed two "Fight Night" bonuses already and he'll be looking to score another against the rising prospect Waldburger.
T.J. Waldburger has responded wonderfully to his first UFC loss, scoring a pair of devastating first round submission victories, one of which garnered him a "Submission of the Night" bonus while the other was overshadowed by Martin Kampmann's last minute heroics. He possesses a tremendous amount of potential and he's going to need to live up to all of it against a veteran like Ebersole.
Will Ebersole's experience prepare him for every curveball Waldburger throws his way? Can the 24-year old Waldburger's crazy-aggressive style overwhelm Ebersole? What's the key to victory for both men this Friday night?
Let's find out:Brian Ebersole
Record: 49-14-1 overall, 3-0 in the UFC
Key Wins: Chris Lytle (UFC 127), Claude Patrick (UFC 140), Dennis Hallman (UFC 133)
Key Losses: Hector Lombard (CFC 5)
How he got here: Brian Ebersole had an incredibly long road to the UFC. He spent the first 17 fights of his career fighting on his native midwest local circuit before finding a temporary home in Mexico. From 2002-2004, Ebersole would fight a ridiculous 23 times, with 11 of those bouts taking place south of the border. After another year spent on the local circuit fighting for six separate promotions in six fights, the Indiana native would find a surprising new home down under.
"Bad Boy" would fight 13 of his next 15 matches in Australia over the next five years, culminating in a surprise last minute inclusion on the UFC 127 card against veteran Chris Lytle when his original opponent, Carlos Condit, had dropped out of the card.
Ebersole not only stepped up, but he would make a huge impact, smashing Lytle over the course of three rounds and nearly finishing the fight in the second after blasting "Lights Out" with a knee to halt the fellow Indiana native's four fight winning streak in the promotion.
At 30 years old and after over 60 professional fights, Brian Ebersole had finally arrived. He was paired up against fellow veteran Dennis Hallman for UFC 133 and after a wardrobe malfunction, Ebersole finished Hallman with repeated elbows and punches from top position.
He followed that victory up with a rather dull decision against Claude Patrick, but after over six months away from the Octagon, he's back and ready for T.J. Waldburger
How he gets it done: Ebersole is a very unorthodox fighter. He's got a solid wrestling background but he loves to strike, throwing everything from spinning elbows to cartwheel kicks. This man is capable of hurting you from any angle with any attack. The unpredictability of his striking and grappling can cause serious problems for his opponents.
There is an extremely high probability that "The White Anderson Silva" will throw his crazy cartwheel kick in this bout either at the beginning of a round or if Waldburger gives him enough separation.
Ebersole's got a strong background in wrestling and I feel he's going to use it in reverse for this fight to try and keep this bout standing. If Waldburger has one big weakness, he tends to get hurt on the feet pretty easily. Ebersole is very dangerous standing with his unpredictability and that could play right against his 24-year old opponent's Achilles Heel.
If the fight does go to the ground, Ebersole will likely try to simply work to get back to his feet or perhaps stall and force a referee separation. Yes, Waldburger is only a brown belt, but he's so aggressive that he makes up for it. Ebersole shouldn't mess around with him on the canvas.
Record: 15-6 overall, 3-1 in the UFC
Key Wins: Pat Healy (Shark Fights 6), Jake Hecht (UFC on FX 2), Brian Foster (Masters of the Cage 4)
Key Losses: Johny Hendricks (UFC Fight Night 24)
How he got here: TJ Waldburger got a quick start in mixed martial arts, competing as an amateur in Texas at just 17 years old. When Texas put a stop to amateur fights, he just switched to professional bouts immediately, even though he probably wasn't fully ready.
Despite this, he rose up the ranks in the local Texas circuit, eventually finding himself in the budding Shark Fights promotion where he would rise the the rank of welterweight champion, even defending his title against current top Strikeforce fighter Pat Healy.
The Shark Fights performances caught the eye of the UFC and Waldburger was quickly scooped up. He won his debut against David Mitchel, but would get thrown to the wolf that is Johny Hendricks for his next bout, losing quickly via first round knockout.
Since then, the Texan has been thoroughly impressive, scoring a pair of first round submission finishes over Mike Stumpf and Jake Hecht which showcase his lightning quick transitions on the ground. Now, he's set to face a stern test in the veteran Ebersole.
How he gets it done: Waldburger has to be extremely careful, and that's not his nature. Ebersole can take a shot and he's got some power in both his hands and feet. If Waldburger comes in guns blazing, he could find himself in serious trouble.
What the 24 year old should focus on is closing the distance, whether it's with a traditional wrestling shot or a clinch. He doesn't want to be on the end of Ebersole's punches, that's for sure.
If he does stand for a bit, I expect to see the Texan focus on leg kicks. Who can forget his incredible back-take against Mike Stumpf off of a leg kick which had briefly spun his opponent around and exposed his back? Waldburger has some power in his kicks and if he uses those, he'll (hopefully) be out of the range of Ebersole's punches.
If he can get the fight to the ground, Waldburger shouldn't be patient. Ebersole is too experienced for that. He should be flying at 100 miles per hour transitioning from submission to submission and always trying to attack so fast that the the veteran won't be able to keep up with him. If he can get enough steps ahead, he might be able to force Ebersole to tap out. It's not impossible.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight has to be the stand-up. Waldburger's reckless abandon on the ground gets him some very nice victories via submission, but when he does it on the feet, he leaves openings which allow opponents to knock him out quickly. He's lost via first round knockout in four of his professional defeats and if he drops his guard looking for something crazy or gets too aggressive in the stand-up, Ebersole will certainly make him pay for it.
Bottom Line: I think this is the fight on the UFC on FX 4 card that I'm looking forward to the most. Both men bring it and are capable of the most random and entertaining things. It's a very intriguing clash of styles as well as generations. Ebersole is almost 8 years older than Waldburger but he doesn't fight like it. You can expect anything from flying armbars to cartwheel kick knockouts in this bout and I think the unpredictability of it all is what has me so amped.
Who will come out on top at UFC on FX 4? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!