Recapping the UFC career of "Battle on The Bayou" main eventer Jake Ellenberger...
In just five UFC fights, Jake Ellenberger has gone from underrated and unknown veteran to welterweight contender and main eventer as he approaches his September 17th bout with Jake Shields in New Orleans, Louisiana, and he’s done it with attention-getting power, solid wrestling, and a confidence that doesn’t allow him to let up on the intensity until the fight is over and his hand is raised.
Maybe even more notable is that the Nebraskan is only 26 years old, so the best is clearly yet to come for “The Juggernaut.” But if you’re still curious about what Ellenberger (25-5) brings to the table for his showdown against one of the best 170-pounders on the planet, read on for an in-depth look at how he got here.
UFC Fight Night – September 16, 2009 – L3 Carlos Condit
It took a while, but in 2009, Jake Ellenberger finally got his call to the UFC. That opportunity came after four years on the local circuit, where he battled it out with a host of standouts, including Rick Story, Pat Healy, Jose “Pele” Landi-Jons, Jay Hieron, Gil Castillo, and Laverne Clark. With that cast of characters populating his fistic tale, many believed it was a call long overdue, but the one dissenter in that crowd was the man himself.
“I just wanted it to be the right time for me,” said Ellenberger at the time. “I wanted to make sure that when I go there, I’m going to be a contender and that I’m ready. I do feel right now that I am.”
And against former WEC champion Carlos Condit, he was going to get thrown into the fire immediately.
What He Said: “He’s got a lot of pressure on him, to be honest. He’s coming off a loss in the UFC (to Martin Kampmann), and he can’t afford to lose again. I know that’s gonna be in the back of his mind and he’s definitely gonna be ready to fight. He’s gonna come out hard and not let up for 15 minutes. I’m gonna be explosive, and I’ll definitely show my skills. Not taking anything away from Carlos, but I’ve fought guys just as tough and skilled as he is, and I’m very confident in finishing him. Granted, people don’t really know me because I haven’t fought in the UFC yet, but this is gonna put me on the map if I finish him.”
What We Said: Rising welterweight star Carlos Condit saw stars for much of the first round against Octagon debutant Jake Ellenberger, but the Albuquerque native weathered the early storm and got stronger as the fight progressed, eventually eking out a hard-fought and entertaining split decision win over Ellenberger.
Scores were 29-28 twice, and 28-29 for Condit.
The pace was fast from the opening bell, with Ellenberger catching Condit with a right hand that sent him to the mat. Condit recovered quickly, but then had to deal with Ellenberger’s attack from the top position. No problem for Condit, who soon made it back to his feet. Again Ellenberger struck gold with his right hand, seemingly hurting Condit worse the second time around. But the former WEC welterweight champ showed resilience a second time, landing with some knees before Ellenberger attacked with a guillotine choke attempt. If Condit was a cat, he would have already been down three lives, but he kept battling and made it out of the round.
“I saw stars for a second and I knew I needed to come back,” said Condit of his rough opening round.
Having had success on the feet in round one, Ellenberger tried his luck on the mat, and the two battled it out on even terms on the ground, with Condit working for submissions that kept Ellenberger guessing. With less than two minutes left, he reversed position and got into the mount, pounding away until Ellenberger was able to get some daylight. With under a minute left, Ellenberger now moved to the top spot, and the two active welters ended the round on their feet, surely earning a 60 second break.
Ellenberger opened the final round with a nice throw to the mat, but Condit was far from idle while on his back, and though he was now cut over his left eye, he was still pushing the action. So was Ellenberger though, and the UFC newcomer went for another guillotine choke that Condit was able to pull free from en route to the top position and some solid ground and pound. With less than two minutes left, it looked like Condit was moving in for the finish with ground strikes. Ellenberger escaped though, and after the two stood, he shot for a takedown that Condit was able to deny, and it was ‘The Natural Born Killer’ who finished the bout with a flurry of punishing ground strikes.
What It Meant: It wasn’t a win, and Ellenberger isn’t one to be toasting moral victories, but it was as good a loss as a fighter can take if he has to be on the wrong side of a judges’ decision. Why? Because he showed off knockout power, he was exciting, and he was relentless in his attack. If a fighter has one of those attributes, fans will love him. All three, and that’s a star in the making right there. And that was the impression that Ellenberger gave that night; that he was here in the UFC and here to make some noise.
UFC 108 – January 2, 2010 – TKO2 Mike Pyle
Sure, Ellenberger was impressive in a losing effort against Condit, but no one wants to go 0-2 in the UFC with the roster being trimmed, and Ellenberger had to see his second Octagon bout against fellow vet Mike Pyle as a must win. And he was going to do whatever he needed to do – either on the feet or the mat – to get that victory.
What We Said: In welterweight action, Jake Ellenberger kicked off the New Year with his first UFC win as he impressively halted veteran Mike Pyle in the second round.
“This is the greatest feeling in the world,” said Ellenberger. “Mike’s a tough guy.”
Ellenberger went on the attack immediately, using his strikes to set up a takedown. What followed was an interesting stalemate as Ellenberger used his ground and pound attack while Pyle looked for submissions while mixing in strikes from the bottom. After the two stood up and re-started the action on the feet, Ellenberger got another quick takedown. This time Pyle worked on his opponent’s arm, but it was Ellenberger who got last licks in as he pounded away on a hurt Pyle until the bell intervened.
It was Pyle looking for the takedown early in the second round, but Ellenberger fought it off and instead landed with a flush right hand that dropped Pyle against the fence. A follow-up flurry ended the bout moments later, with referee Yves Lavigne halting the bout 22 seconds into the round.
What It Meant: In his previous 25 fights, Pyle had only been knocked out once, and that was by noted knockout artist Rory Markham, so for Ellenberger to pull off the stoppage victory was a major feather in his cap. It also notched him his first UFC victory and a little breathing room, as he could now begin his road toward a title show at 170 pounds.
UFC Live – August 1, 2010 – TKO3 John Howard
An intriguing match against The Ultimate Fighter’s Ben Saunders was next on the plate for Ellenberger, but when Thiago Alves was pulled from his UFC 111 bout against Jon Fitch on fight week and Saunders stepped up to face the top contender, Ellenberger was left without a fight. Sure, he still got paid, but that didn’t really soothe the Omaha native too much.
“I was looking forward to fighting Ben Saunders mainly for the fact of it putting me in the top ten and at least putting me in the mix,” he said. “It was obviously nice getting paid, but I’m not fighting to make money; I’m fighting to become a world champ.”
The next open slot for Ellenberger was five months later against John “Doomsday” Howard, and he jumped at the opportunity against the dangerous to the last second New Englander.
What He Said: “He’s a perfect opponent for me to get back and prove myself as being a top ten fighter in the division. Howard is coming off four wins in the UFC and seven in a row, so he’s a perfect guy for me to test my skills against. I’ve seen all his fights and really was not impressed, and I think he’s kinda skated by. He (Howard) has got a couple split decisions and a couple knockouts, and he’s not a guy you can sleep on, but I know I’m a better fighter than he is.”
What We Said: Welterweight up and comer Jake Ellenberger ate some hard shots from John Howard in their eagerly-anticipated bout, but with unstoppable takedowns and an effective ground attack that nearly swelled his opponent’s eye shut, he was able to score a third round TKO over the Boston native.
Ellenberger tore after Howard with bombs at the opening bell, and ‘Doomsday’ eagerly fired back. After that initial burst, the two locked up and battled against the fence. After a stalemate, referee Herb Dean broke the two up and restarted the action. Ellenberger responded with a takedown, and though he was landing with strikes from the top position, the crowd was getting restless. Moments later, Dean stood the fighters up, and after landing a few shots upstairs, Ellenberger took his foe down again and landed with more ground strikes until the bell.
Howard opened the second round with a jarring right kick to the side of Ellenberger’s head, hurting the Omaha native. Howard tried to finish matters, but Ellenberger got a takedown that allowed him the time he needed to recover and keep the action on the mat. After an extended period on the mat, the two stood and again Howard got the better of the standup, leading to an Ellenberger takedown and more ground strikes for the rest of the round.
With a nearly closed left eye after Ellenberger’s ground attack, Howard went for broke in the final round, nearly catching his foe flush with a knee to the head. As the two circled each other warily after that exchange, Ellenberger suddenly jumped into action with another takedown. With 2:43 left, Dean halted the bout for the Octagonside physician to check Howard’s eye and he immediately recommended the stoppage, which Dean called at 2:21 of the final frame.
What It Meant: This was a nice second UFC win for Ellenberger because it allowed him to show off his chin and his ground game, both of which came up aces when he needed them to. Howard was riding a four fight UFC winning streak and had never lost in the Octagon, so for Ellenberger to stop that string of success with a punishing three round TKO win, it was a big deal.
UFC 126 – February 5, 2011 – W3 Carlos Eduardo Rocha
Unbeaten Carlos Eduardo Rocha surprised many fans when he easily submitted The Ultimate Fighter 11 finalist Kris McCray in his Octagon debut in November of 2010, so there were many giving him a decent shot at the upset against Ellenberger, who could see his aggression cost him if he got caught on the ground by the Brazilian. Ellenberger was determined to not let that happen though.
What We Said: Jake Ellenberger pinned the first pro loss on Carlos Eduardo Rocha’s record, winning a close three round split decision over the Brazilian in welterweight action.
Scores were 29-28 twice and 27-30 for Ellenberger, who improves to 24-5; Rocha falls to 9-1.
Ellenberger and Rocha traded takedowns in the opening stages of the bout, with Rocha having more success as he pinned his foe to the mat while working from side control. Staying active, Rocha worked on securing Ellenberger’s leg from the north-south position, but Ellenberger worked his way free and got back to his feet with a minute left. Rocha came up short on an ensuing takedown attempt, but while Ellenberger pounded away with strikes, the Brazilian almost scored a rolling kimura that had the fans roaring as the round ended.
Round two was a tactical one, with Ellenberger able to land enough strikes, as well as a late takedown, to win the frame.
Rocha’s final round attack consisted of a steady diet of leg kicks, with Ellenberger unable to get off with his own strikes with any consistency. “The Juggernaut” did score a takedown late in the fight, apparently sealing the victory for himself.
What It Meant: Mama said there would be nights like this, and after putting together a personal highlight reel in his first three Octagon bouts, Ellenberger had to grind out a victory against a tough foe who was determined not to end up on the receiving end of one of those “Juggernaut” bombs. What resulted was a tactical bout that one judge actually saw in Rocha’s favor 30-27. That was a surprising tally, but it showed how difficult that bout was to score. Ellenberger is probably happy not to be seeing Rocha anytime soon.
UFC 129 – April 30, 2011 – KO1 Sean Pierson
After Brian Foster was forced out of his UFC 129 bout with Sean Pierson, Ellenberger jumped at the opportunity to face the Canadian in front of over 55,000 fans at Toronto’s Rogers Centre. Given Ellenberger’s attitude toward fighting, that wasn’t surprise, but what made his short notice acceptance of the bout even more understandable was the fact that despite Pierson’s stellar wrestling background, he liked to bang it out on the feet like he did in his UFC debut win over Matt Riddle. Ellenberger liked that idea.
What We Said: Short notice was no problem for Jake Ellenberger in welterweight action, as he knocked out Toronto’s Sean Pierson in the first round.
After a tentative opening from both men, Ellenberger – who replaced Brian Foster - opened things up with a takedown, but Pierson, a standout Canadian amateur wrestler, jumped up immediately. Moments later though, Ellenberger finished the bout with a crushing left hand that knocked Pierson out before he hit the mat. The end came at the 2:42 mark.
What It Meant: This one was simple. No matter who you are in the welterweight division, you stand with Jake Ellenberger at your own peril. The kid can crack, and if he hits you clean, it’s usually lights out. That was the case for Pierson, who looked to be settling into the bout when lightning struck. It was a chilling warning to the 170-pound division.