Having won 14 of his past 15 fights, with his only loss during that time coming against former Bellator champion Hector Lombard, Brian Ebersole is on the verge of becoming a serious contender in the lightweight division.
First, however, Ebersole will have to stop the 24-year-old T.J. Waldburger from stealing his momentum. Since losing to top 170-pound contender Johny Hendricks, Waldburger has won two consecutive fights. A third in a row against Ebersole would put Waldburger in position to get another shot against one of the division's best.
On Friday night, Ebersole and Waldburger will meet on the UFC on FX 4 main card. Let's take a look at which fighter has a better chance of walking away with the victory.
Brian Ebersole and T.J. Waldburger are both strongest on the ground, so experience will play a large factor in determining which fighter will have more success on his feet.
Having competed in 65 professional fights, the 31-year-old Ebersole has more than three times as much experience as the young Waldburger. Ebersole has also already had success on his feet against the likes of a skilled boxer in Chris Lytle.
In addition to his edge in experience, Ebersole presents a very unorthodox striking style that will be difficult for Waldburger to prepare for. While he may not be the most technical fighter on his feet, Ebersole's sometimes strange striking tactics throw off his opponents' rhythm and force them to make mistakes.
Though T.J. Waldburger has only been taken down twice in his four UFC fights, while securing 10 takedowns of his own, he has had success against the type of competition Brian Ebersole has been facing recently.
In his three UFC fights, Ebersole has been taken down once. Shortly after that takedown, Ebersole reversed Dennis Hallman and finished the fight with elbows. So, even if Waldburger is able to secure a takedown against Ebersole, he'll be dealing with a very experienced and crafty grappler.
Against Chris Lytle, Ebersole scored four takedowns and repeatedly fought off his opponent's guillotine choke attempts. While Waldburger is dangerous off of his back, Ebersole has solid submission defense and won't be afraid to work from the top position in this fight.
Though Brian Ebersole showed solid submission defense against Chris Lytle, he has suffered nine submission losses throughout his career and could be in danger of being forced to tap for a 10th time against T.J. Waldburger.
Of his 15 career wins, Waldburger has defeated 12 opponents via submission. Inside the Octagon, Waldburger has already shown he can be dangerous from both the top and bottom positions on the ground. If Ebersole decides to take this fight to the ground, he will have his hands full in trying to fend off submission attempt after submission attempt.
Brian Ebersole's experience could be the biggest factor in this matchup. He has already shown he can compete against some of the higher-level welterweights, whereas T.J. Waldburger has come up short in almost every opportunity he has had to compete against a proven opponent.
Though Ebersole is seemingly the fighter with more to lose in this fight, he always appears loose inside the cage and never seems to be overwhelmed by nerves. That was most on display in his UFC debut against Chris Lytle, whom Ebersole beat on the scorecards in a massive upset.
T.J. Waldburger is very similar in style to Dennis Hallman, whom Brian Ebersole was able to stop in the first round of a UFC 133 bout. Like Hallman, Waldburger will do whatever he can to take the fight to the ground as soon as possible.
Eventually, this fight is going to go to the ground, where Ebersole hasn't been submitted—aside from a stoppage due to knee injury—for more than seven years. Once Waldburger has difficulty in locking up a submission against Ebersole, the inexperienced welterweight will become quickly frustrated and mentally defeated.
While Waldburger is dangerous with submissions on the ground, he doesn't have very strong striking defense. If Ebersole can avoid an early series of submission attempts, he should be able to finish Waldburger with ground-and-pound just as he was able to do against Hallman.
Prediction: Ebersole defeats Waldburger by technical knockout (punches) in the first round.