"The Juggernaut" may very well be the perfect nickname for UFC welterweight Jake Ellenberger, as he has just been running through his opponent.
Last night, Ellenberger won a quick TKO victory over former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Jake Shields. A TKO is impressive by itself. A TKO in the first minute of the fight, even more impressive.
A TKO over a man who has only ever been finished once, and could not be finished by Dan Henderson, is about as impressive as it can be.
Ellenberger showed great poise in his biggest fight thus far in his UFC career, and made Shields look as if he were the one trying to break into contendership. He managed to throw Shields down as soon as they entered the clinch, and shrugged off a takedown attempt on the cage soon after. As Shields once again tried for a takedown, Ellenberger managed to get a hold of a Muay Thai plum clinch, and landed two knees, the latter which hit Shields on the chin and sent him flying to the canvas. Ellenberger finished him off with some good ground and pound, leaving Shields so removed from his senses that he attempted a takedown on the referee.
Ellenberger has been on a tear through the division ever since losing a split decision to Carlos Condit, who is now scheduled to fight Georges St. Pierre for the title at UFC 137 in his UFC debut. He has finished four of his last five fights, and is primed to become a serious contender in the division.
Ellenberger is part of the new breed of welterweight: he is multi-dimensional, fluid in transitioning from one facet of the fight to the other and is a finisher. Yet, he manages to stay unique within his division. He is almost like a smaller version of Dan Henderson, using his wrestling to keep the fight standing, and always looking for the KO. After being fed middle-of-the-pack fighters, this victory should push him into the upper echelons.
Now, the question is, is he good enough to dethrone GSP? St. Pierre is regarded as one of the two best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, and has not looked human since losing to Matt Serra by TKO at UFC 69, and has not come close to losing since. No one has implemented a game plan that has even made GSP worried, outside of an eye poke (sorry Shields, someone had to say it). It would be quite the task for Ellenberger to present a threat to the champion.
Personally, I like Ellenberger's chances. Well, let me rephrase that; I like Ellenberger's chances better than most in the division. He has dynamite in his hands, has top caliber wrestling and comes to fight, unlike many of St. Pierre's other opponents, but that in no way means that he is able to take the belt from "Rush," or is even ready to try. The last dangerous striker St.Pierre fought was Thiago Alves, and St. Pierre put on a wrestling clinic. The last great wrestler he fought was Josh Koscheck, and he jabbed Koscheck's eye into oblivion, while managing to take him down as well. At this point, St.Pierre still seems unbeatable inside his division, and, this writer thinks he will not give any reason to the fans to have hope for a different champion any time soon.
Ellenberger needs at least one more impressive win before he is thrown into the biggest fight of his life. If he wins another fight against a top contender (the winner of Jon Fitch-Jonny Hendricks comes to mind) and in impressive fashion, it will be nigh on impossible to deny the man his shot. Hopefully, he can give the champ the challenge he has been seeking inside his division. Until that day comes, "The Juggernaut" can be satisfied that he has solidified his place as a contender in one of the most competitive divisions in MMA.