Jake Ellenberger went the full three rounds with Diego Sanchez in the UFC on Fuel main event welterweight clash and, with the performance he put on, it’s a sure-fire bet that he’ll soon be knocking on the door of the 170-lb. title holder, whoever that maybe when the time comes.
Albeit, he didn’t have things all his own way against Sanchez, Ellenberger still showed why he is a force to be reckoned with in one of the most precarious divisions the Ultimate Fighting Championship has.
Thus far, the NCAA Division-ll wrestler has taken care of business—adding the likes of Mike Pyle, Jake Shields and now Sanchez to his win column, which has so far resulted in a six-fight winning streak for “The Juggernaut.”
His only hiccup in the Octagon to date was his split decision defeat to Carlos Condit.
That said, which five contests could Ellenberger take next or more to the point, which fights could lead to an eventual tilt at UFC gold?
Let’s have look.
This is a long shot—like a really long shot—but where MMA is concerned, anything can happen. “The Natural Born Killer” is the division’s new interim champion and with that comes a projected title clash with Georges St-Pierre.
The only way this fight transpires is if St-Pierre’s injuries keep him on the sidelines for longer than expected. It’s also dependent on whether Condit is willing to jeopardize his No. 1 status to the UFC crown.
However, if the first happens, then Ellenberger’s window of opportunity opens ever-so slightly, but if Condit wants to keep active then a rematch could be in the offing for the No. 3 ranked fighter, sooner rather than later.
For Ellenberger, throwing down against the winner of the Hendricks vs. Koscheck match-up (No. 5 and No. 4 ranked fighters respectively) would culminate (if victorious) in a straight trajectory to the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked welterweights—Georges St and/or Carlos Condit.
In Koscheck, he’ll be up against a world class wrestler and, in Hendricks, a fighter who can bang with the best of them.
The stumbling block to either of those fights coming to fruition anytime soon, lies in the fact that both combatants are scheduled to lock horns at UFC on FOX 3 on Cinco de Mayo, so he’ll have to wait awhile.
The 22-year-old Rory MacDonald is one of the UFC’s brightest prospects—he has good submission skills and relative punching power, something that Ellenberger can appreciate, especially the latter.
Both combatants have two things in common—they’ve both beaten Mike Pyle as well as lost to Carlos Condit.
A win over MacDonald would clear some of the backlog of would-be contenders, giving Ellenberger a smoother path to the title.
Though at present, MacDonald has prior engagements—he’s slated to throw down with Che Mills at UFC 145 in April and, even if he were to win, don’t expect him to set foot in the Octagon for several months.
Once upon a time, Jon Fitch was the perennial No. 2 welterweight in the world, but one punch and 12 seconds later changed all that, courtesy of Johny Hendricks.
As things stand, the 33-year-old AKA trained fighter hasn’t any upcoming fights—what better way for Ellenberger to not only test himself against one of the division’s best grapplers, but also to make a statement of intent to the rest of the division, with an emphatic victory over Fitch.
Though I doubt he can go one better than Hendricks, but he can try.
Brian “Bad Boy” Ebersole is 3-0 since signing for the Zuffa-based promotion and is currently riding a 10-fight winning streak, with his latest win being a unanimous decision against Claude Patrick at UFC 140.
A fight with Ebersole would not only keep the "Juggernaut" busy whilst waiting in the wings, but it would also give him the opportunity to put an end to that streak, though he’ll have his work cut out, as Ebersole is no slouch either on his feet or the mat.
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