Rory MacDonald vs. Jake Ellenberger Head-to-Toe Breakdown
Rory MacDonald and Jake Ellenberger will square off in the Octagon this summer when they meet at UFC on Fox 8.
The winner of the fight will likely be the front-runner for the next title shot at welterweight. Although it is doubtful that MacDonald would challenge his teammate, GSP, for the gold, the welterweight showdown has heavy implications.
MacDonald is on a four-fight win streak since his defeat to Carlos Condit in 2010. He is the premier prospect of the division. Ellenberger has won back-to-back fights after a come-from-behind win by Martin Kampmann last June.
The 170-pound division continues to be one of the most exciting divisions in all of MMA.
Here is a head-to-toe breakdown of this important welterweight fight.
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Ellenberger has serious knockout power. He may be the hardest hitter in the division. MacDonald shows more technique in his striking but can get the finish as well.
The Nebraskan has developed his striking well. Over the course of recent fights, we have seen him start to put together combinations and become a serious threat on his feet outside of just the fear of the one knockout blow.
MacDonald showcased just how good his striking has gotten in his last outing versus BJ Penn. The Hawaiian is largely considered to be one of the best pure boxers in all of MMA, and MacDonald outclassed him. He brutalized Penn for 15 minutes.
For all the improvements that Ellenberger has made, he is not on MacDonald's level from a technical aspect. MacDonald must fear the power from Ellenberger, but it is clear who the better striker is.
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Ellenberger was an NCAA Division II All-American at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Wrestling is his go-to tactic inside the Octagon.
MacDonald's wrestling has improved while at Tristar. One of the reasons he is effective in his wrestling is his striking. He changes levels well like his teammate, and world champion, GSP. The blend of striking and wrestling keeps his opponents off balance.
This category is closer than most would believe because of that.
In wrestling alone, Ellenberger has the advantage. He has been doing it a long time, and it is what has allowed him to move in to the top five at welterweight. It is a key component of his arsenal. MacDonald's wrestling can be effective, but he needs his striking to be on point to set it up.
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Neither of these two prefer to submit their opponents. If the fight hits the canvas, they try to finish with ground-and-pound.
Between the two, it is MacDonald who is more proficient with his submission skills.
In 29 wins for Ellenberger, five of them have been finished via submission. Two of those were from his opponents tapping to strikes. MacDonald has six submission finishes to his credit.
Ellenberger is a work in progress in the jiu-jitsu department. MacDonald is simply ahead of where he is. It is unlikely that either fighter will try to submit the other, but MacDonald has the better chance to do so.
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Ellenberger's X-Factor: Taking MacDonald Down
MacDonald has good takedown defense, and to win this fight, Ellenberger will need to take him down early in the fight. Ellenberger has the chance to knockout anyone in the division, but he cannot rely on that in fights at the elite level at welterweight.
In previous fights, Ellenberger has shown that he tires late in fights. He starts fights fast, throws a lot in his strikes and works tirelessly. Those are fine qualities, but it allows his opposition to find more offensive opportunities late.
If he can take down MacDonald early, he will wear on him. It will force MacDonald to work hard in defense and take away his speed, and it will stop MacDonald from potentially stealing the fight with a late-round comeback.
MacDonald's X-Factor: Returning from Injury
If there is one worry in MacDonald's career, it is the injuries he has accrued this early into his career. He had to drop out of UFC 158 with a neck injury. Then, he re-injured it by returning to training too soon. The neck is one part you do not want to re-injure.
If he returns as the same old MacDonald we have seen inside the Octagon, then we are in for a treat. But if this injuries start to take a toll on the young man, it will be a travesty.
When this fight takes place, we can only hope the injuries do not limit such a promising star.
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This fight could determine the next title contender in the division, and we will get to see who steps up to the plate live and free on Fox.
Ellenberger will be reduced to a power striker in this bout. He will not be able to find consistent success in taking MacDonald down, and MacDonald's striking proficiency will render Ellenberger's attacks useless. He will airmail his big strikes and come up empty in the fight.
For my money, MacDonald is the top contender in the division. I would pick him to finish GSP if they fought. So, it should come as no surprise that I think he finishes Ellenberger in this fight.
MacDonald's striking will allow him to change levels and take a winded Ellenberger down in the second round. From top position, he will batter Ellenberger until the referee steps in to save the Nebraskan from an onslaught. MacDonald will claim the next title shot, but he may not go after it if GSP defeats Johny Hendricks.
Prediction: MacDonald defeats Ellenberger by TKO in the second round.