Remember the days when Jake Ellenberger was one of the more feared fighters at 170 pounds? It appears Mr. Ellenberger himself has forgotten that as well.
The Nebraska native was thoroughly outclassed by his UFC 173 opponent, Robbie Lawler. There was never a moment when MMA fans could picture Ellenberger finding a way to have his hand raised after witnessing Lawler pick him apart.
The fight was similar to Ellenberger's last bout with Rory MacDonald. Both fights had quite a bit of build behind them, but in the end, Ellenberger simply froze.
It happened against MacDonald, and it happened again at UFC 173.
MacDonald also came in with a conservative game plan so Ellenberger didn't look as bad as his strategy was that night. But at UFC 173, faced with the cool, calculating destruction machine Lawler, Ellenberger couldn't make it to the final bell.
It was just a few short years ago that Ellenberger was everyone's favorite dark-horse title contender. He blasted through Jake Shields to end 2011 and went 2-1 over the course of 2012. He also dropped Nate Marquardt inside the first round at UFC 158 which effectively put him "in the mix."
For everything good Ellenberger did in the lead up to becoming a top-tier talent, he's completely ruined that with his performances in big-time fights.
Against both MacDonald and Lawler, Ellenberger landed virtually no offense in the early goings. The seconds ticked by, then minutes went by without Ellenberger landing even a significant strike.
Maybe we're seeing another Kenny Florian-like situation play out? Ellenberger is clearly game enough to feast on the mid-range welterweights, but he falters mightily when the bright lights of expectation turn on.
It's one thing to be an elite fighter and simply have an off night, but Ellenberger isn't an elite fighter right now. I'm not sure what the issue is, either. If he had been injured with a broken hand or rib that's one thing, but it looks like Ellenberger has hit a mental wall with no way to get past it.
He's not a young fighter anymore, so he should have the mental tools to work past that. Unfortunately for Ellenberger, those opportunities are coming against some of the best welterweights in the world.
Hopefully the UFC helps him out by giving him someone on the lower end of the welterweight spectrum to help get his confidence back. It's been two bad nights at the office for Ellenberger, hopefully he doesn't have a third or we may be talking about one of the biggest wastes of potential in recent UFC history.