In the buildup to their co-main event bout at UFC on Fox 8, Rory MacDonald and Jake Ellenberger didn’t seem to have much respect for one another.
During the fight, however, it was painfully obvious that MacDonald and Ellenberger held each other in high esteem.
Like MacDonald’s teammate Georges St-Pierre did to Josh Koscheck at UFC 124, “Ares” maximized a small reach advantage, avoided grappling exchanges and jabbed and kicked his way to a unanimous decision.
MacDonald controlled the range throughout the fight and outstruck “The Juggernaut” 46-19, including 15-5 in the first round and 13-4 in the second.
MacDonald peppered Ellenberger with jabs and front kicks from the opening bell. Ares also landed the occasional standing elbow, a technique that apparently deterred Ellenberger from clinching and wrestling.
“I obviously look to finish fights, but he’s a good fighter, so what can you do?” MacDonald said during the post-fight press conference. “I think I had him worried with the elbows because he didn’t want to come near me after that. That wasn’t my game plan, but I accomplished what I needed to do.”
The typically venomous Ellenberger, who had won eight of 10 UFC fights heading into the bout, delivered just 19 significant strikes, 10 of which came in the third round.
A former NCAA Division II wrestler, Ellenberger got stuffed on two of three takedown attempts.
Ellenberger scored his only takedown with a double-leg less than a minute left in the fight. The Juggernaut then played it safe in MacDonald’s open guard, landing no substantial blows from the top position.
Right before the bout’s final horn sounded, MacDonald tried to hook up an omoplata and nearly took Ellenberger’s back in the process.
“I think I did exactly what I was supposed to do,” MacDonald said. “He’s a counterpuncher and a very powerful puncher. I was waiting for my opportunities, and he wasn’t coming in at the right times. He was staying back and he wasn’t engaging. I was playing my angles and waiting for my opportunities like I always do. He’s a smart fighter, I’ve got to hand it to him.”
Ellenberger tried on several occasions to land his patented leaping left hook, only to swing and miss the elusive MacDonald. Like Lyoto Machida did to Dan Henderson, MacDonald made a lethal fighter seem relatively harmless.
Ultimately, MacDonald scored the unanimous decision based on his ability to control the distance, land his jab, and prevent Ellenberger from landing any significant combinations.
The win didn’t wow fans or UFC president Dana White, and it may not result in a title shot, but it’s certainly a nice feather in MacDonald’s cap.
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