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UFC 180 fight card: Jake Ellenberger vs Kelvin Gastelum fight preview

Welterweight wrestler-boxers Jake Ellenberger and Kelvin Gastelum will look for the knockout this Saturday (Nov. 15, 2014) at UFC 180 inside the Arena Ciudad de Mexico in Mexico City, Mexico. With so much on the line, what adjustments must either fighter make in order to win? Read our fight preview to find out!

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweights Jake Ellenberger and Kelvin Gastelum will go to war this Saturday (Nov. 15, 2014) at UFC 180 inside the Arena Ciudad de Mexico in Mexico City, Mexico.

Recently, Ellenberger has run into a bit of a rough patch. He hasn't tasted victory since pasting Nate Marquardt with a right hand back in 2013, recently getting out-struck by both Rory MacDonald and Robbie Lawler. Now, he'll look to recover some momentum by returning to form with a knockout.

Originally the often-overlooked underdog, Gastelum has since evolved into a serious blue chip prospect. For the most part, this transition occurred after The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 17 winner's back-and-forth split decision victory over Rick Story, in which the young fighter showcased just how talented he is.

Let's take a look at the keys to victory for each fighter.

Jake Ellenberger

Record: 29-8

Key Wins: Nate Marquardt (UFC 158), Jake Shields (UFC Fight Night 25), Mike Pyle (UFC 108)

Key Losses: Robbie Lawler (UFC 173), Rory MacDonald (UFC on FOX 8), Martin Kampmann (TUF 15 Finale)

Keys to Victory: Ellenberger is one of the most explosive fighters in the UFC. He's ridiculously athletic and able to cover a shocking amount of distance with lightning quick knockout punches.

Ellenberger is undoubtedly a knockout artist and has 18 finishes via strikes. Most of those finishes come fairly early in the fight, when "Juggernaut" is at his most dangerous.

To defeat Gastelum -- who may be a slow starter -- Ellenberger needs to get after him immediately. By pressuring his relatively inexperienced opponent with punches and pressure, Ellenberger can force Gastelum to make a mistake.

Simply put, it takes serious striking ability or veteran composure to handle Ellenberger in the first round. That's what allowed Lawler, MacDonald, and Kampmann to survive early.

On the other hand, if Gastelum panics and swings wildly or simply covers up, then the fight is in Ellenberger's hands. If given easy opportunities to land strikes while he's still fresh, Ellenberger will get his opponent out of the cage before long.

Kelvin Gastelum

Record: 9-0

Key Wins: Rick Story (UFC 171), Uriah Hall (TUF 17 Finale)

Key Losses: None

Keys to Victory: Gastelum is extraordinarily well-rounded for his level of experience. He's become a dangerous kickboxers startlingly quick, basically within his last three fights.

Before that skill developed, Gastelum was mostly an excellent top control fighter with strong submission skills. In particular, Gastelum loves to hop on his opponent's back and grab a rear naked choke, which was first seen on TUF.

As mentioned, the early portions of this bout will be incredibly risky for Gastelum. Ellenberger has legitimate one punch knockout power and is absurdly fast, meaning Gastelum will have to be very focused on his defense early.

However, that doesn't mean Gastelum can't attack in the first round. Robbie Lawler basically shut Ellenberger's offense down in the very beginning of the fight by slamming some hard round kicks into his guard and body. Gastelum has shown similar strength with that technique and should definitely use it, especially since his body kicks could slow Ellenberger down a bit early than normal.

In addition, Gastelum's jab pierced Rick Story's defense early and often in their fight. If Gastelum can land it with some consistency against Ellenberger, he could keep Ellenberger's overhand away from his chin.

Worst comes to worst, Gastelum could also try and force a wrestling match early.

Once Ellenberger slows down, Gastelum can really open up with his offense. Trading with Ellenberger still wouldn't be advisable, but he could definitely start piecing together combinations or shooting for takedowns.

Bottom Line: At the moment, this is a bout between a fighter who seems to be on his way out verses a rising star.

Of course, Ellenberger has no intention of going anywhere other than up. If he comes out a blitzes Gastelum in classic "Juggernaut" fashion, then it's apparent that Ellenberger is still quite the force to be reckoned with.

Should Ellenberger fall to the young Arizonan, he'll very likely be forced to surrender his position in the top 10. Worse, he'll be on a three fight losing streak, the first of his career.

For Gastelum, this is likely the most dangerous fighter he's ever faced -- Ellenberger can separate any welterweight from his consciousness if his punch lands correctly -- but it's not his biggest step up. If Gastelum wins this bout, he's not only earned a spot in the top 10, but he could be in position to fight in a title eliminator.

That said, a loss would send him to the back of the line. That wouldn't be the worst thing for Gastelum -- he's only 23 years old and doesn't yet have 10 fights -- but welterweight is pretty crowded. It would take at least a year to rebuild a win streak and get back to this position.

At UFC 180, Jake Ellenberger and Kelvin Gastelum will battle over a position in the top 10. Which man will claim the victory?

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