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UFC Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 21 Finale complete fighter breakdowns, Jake Ellenberger and Stephen Thompson edition resident fighter analyst Andrew Richardson breaks down the mixed martial arts (MMA) game of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 21 Finale headliners Jake Ellenberger and Stephen Thompson, who will go to war this Sunday (July 12, 2015) inside MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight veterans Jake Ellenberger and Stephen Thompson will collide this Sunday (July 12, 2015) at The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 21 Finale inside MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Though he's still in the midst of a rough patch, Ellenberger has more than proven himself a dangerous knockout artist. He's also a highly talented wrestling, an area in which his opponent is fairly untested.

On the other hand, "Wonderboy" is still one of the division's most unique prospects. A karateka with an extensive kickboxing record, Thompson will look to make the jump from up-and-coming prospect to ranked contender with a victory in this bout.

Let's take a closer look at the skills of each man and see how their skills stack up:


A black belt in Kempo Karate and American Kickboxing, Thompson racked up an unbeaten record in both amateur and professional kickboxing totaling more than 50 victories. While the professional wins weren't at the highest level of the sport, it's still nothing to scoff at.

Thompson is a long and tall fighter, making that most of that on his feet. He's quite agile and glides around the Octagon smoothly, allowing him to pick and choose when he wishes to engage.

From the outside, Thompson is a really slick kicker. He throws plenty of roundhouse kicks with power, switching targets between the leg, body, and head nicely. Additionally, he's quite active with his lead leg as well. He'll attack with plenty of flashier techniques like hook kicks but will also utilize quick lead leg round house kicks without any switch.

So far, the most effective kick in Thompson's arsenal has been the question mark kick. The kick begins the same as a low or body kick but comes up and around at the last possible moment, swiping down toward his opponent's chin. When thrown by a fighter with excellent dexterity like Thompson, it's a difficult move to defend. Additionally, Thompson further muddies the waters by using the kick at the end of combinations, which are generally tough to defend even without the deceptive nature of the question mark kick.

For the most part, Thompson relies on his kicks when leading from distance. However, he'll also bounce forward with a quick and powerful one-two combination, which can easily catch his opponent off-guard.

The best part of Thompson's game is likely his counter punching ability. He does an exceptional job frustrating his opponent with his movement and general defensive ability, making it common for his opponent to reach for him with looping shots. Even if they do stay tight, Thompson is very, very good at hopping out of range at an angle before coming back in with a heavy straight punch.

While Jake Ellenberger's style of stand up isn't as complicated or nuanced, his effectiveness cannot be argued. Of his 30 professional victories, the explosive athlete has knocked out 18 men.

Ellenberger is a rather aggressive fighter. He's always pushing forward and his punches rest precariously on a hairpin trigger, as "The Juggernaut" is always a split-second from abandoning all technique and strategy to swing wildly.

If there's one thing that Ellenberger does particularly well, it's explode on his opponent once he has them on the fence. Frankly, there are very few men in the UFC who can match Ellenberger's raw power, meaning he's more than willing to risk eating a punch to take one. Once he knows his opponent cannot retreat from the exchange, Ellenberger will duck his chin and swing with as much force as he can.

These looping combinations of left and right hooks are not exclusive to when Ellenberger has his opponent pinned to the fence. This can both be a positive or a flaw, as seen in Ellenberger's bout with Martin Kampmann. In the first round, Ellenberger nearly finished the fight with a monstrous hook, while he ran directly into a right hand that set up his own knockout in the second.

Finally, Ellenberger will commonly look to counter if his opponent steps to him with punches. It's rarely complicated -- Ellenberger mostly just tries to fire a looping shot over their offense -- but it can certainly be effective and force his opponent to hesitate.


A NCAA Division II college wrestler, Ellenberger is very much and sprawl-and-brawl fighter. However, when he does decide to drag the fight to the mat, his speed and power make him very difficult to stop.

For the most part, Ellenberger relies on his insane blast double. He doesn't even sit it up all that well, just changes level and blows through his opponent's hips. He's not the best at controlling his opponent from the top or doing a ton with top position, but Ellenberger can still send most of his opponent's down to the mat with a single shot.

In addition, Ellenberger is far from helpless in the clinch. Usually, he's just looking to break his opponent's grip and circle out with a big punch, but Ellenberger is also capable of running through a knee pick or simply lifting his opponent into the air and bringing him back with a big slam.

Defensively, Ellenberger is pretty unique. Despite his penchant for running toward his opponents swinging, he's still a very difficult man to take down. While capitalizing on his forward movement is definitely the best strategy available, his powerful sprawl still shuts down most attempts.

In addition, his balance and general athleticism are quite helpful here as well. If his opponent is looking to land a single leg in the center of the cage, Ellenberger can hop around with little to no issue.

And of course, trying to take Ellenberger down from the clinch is a dangerous proposition.

At this point, Thompson's wrestling is likely the weakest aspect of his game. However, it's also improved greatly over the course of his UFC career, as the Tristar-trained fighter has made clear strides with his wrestling game.

Currently, "Wonderboy's" most used takedown is the run through double leg that is common to mixed martial arts (MMA). This builds off his excellent footwork very well, as he can suddenly change levels into a shot rather than punch.

In addition, Thompson showed off some different takedown techniques against Chris Clements. Early on, he worked on a single leg against the cage, which he smoothly turned into a double leg. Plus, he actually landed a knee pick later in the round.

Clements is hardly the best wrestler around, but it's still something.

Defensively, Thompson has improved as well. Against Matt Brown, Thompson feel to basically every semi-awkward takedown Brown attempted and didn't really no how to react. He's still not a natural wrestler, but he can get his hips heavy in exchanges and better understands how to use his underhooks in the clinch.

He hasn't really been tested since, but improvement is always a positive sign.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

With a combined five submissions between their combined 40 professional wins, it's clear that neither man is really hunting for the choke.

Despite that, Ellenberger's last two bouts have ended via submission, both for and against him, which is a bit odd considering his most recent encounter with a submission was all the way back in 2007.

Against Josh Koscheck, Ellenberger returned to the win column with a very nice guillotine. While the former NCAA standout relentlessly hunted for the takedown, Ellenberger slid his arm under Koscheck's neck. Almost immediately, he locked in the rear-naked choke grip from the front, which is an exceptionally difficult hold to break. Koscheck gamely tried to spin out, but Ellenberger held on and finished from north-south.

While Ellenberger's fairly low risk style of top fighting and experience usually keep him out of submission attempts, he was finished in the bout prior by Kelvin Gastelum. Gastelum is definitely quick with his rear naked choke, but it seemed like Ellenberger mentally blanked out and basically gave his opponent the submission.

It's not a problem of technique, as Ellenberger navigated through Carlos Eduardo Rocha's submission and sweep attempts well, but it's an issue that could rear its ugly head at any time.

Meanwhile, Stephens has yet to even attempt a submission inside the Octagon despite owning a brown belt in jiu-jitsu. In his bout with Matt Brown -- the only fight which really spent any time on the mat -- Stephens guard was passed repeatedly and without much issue, though he did manage to avoid any submission holds.

More recently, Stephens showed off just a bit of his top game opposite Chris Clements. He managed to use the cut pass quite nicely but utterly failed to control the Canadian, who bucked his hips and rolled up into a single leg or stand up each time his opponent got on top.

Best Chance For Success

This is a battle of distance. While Ellenberger will look to walk his opponent into the cage to land big punches and potential takedowns, Thompson needs to actively circle, make "Juggernaut" miss, and land plenty of kicks.

With that in mind, the main key to victory is simple for both men. Ellenberger should look to wrestle early on, as there's a pretty good chance he'll be able to finish the shot. Even if his initial takedown is defended, Ellenberger can push his opponent around from the clinch until he wants to explode into a flurry.

From that distance, Ellenberger is sure to land something.

Alternatively, Thompson needs to put a major focus on avoiding Ellenberger. In a five round battle, he'll have plenty of time to land his counter strikes later, so in the early rounds he should simply frustrate his opponent with movement. As Ellenberger is wont to do, he'll quickly grow impatient and swing for the fences. From there, "Wonderboy" will have plenty of opportunities to counter or merely watch his opponent waste energy.

Will Jake Ellenberger begin a new win streak or can Stephen Thompson break into the rankings?

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