The UFC hits Omaha, Nebraska on February 15th with and event called UFC on FUEL TV 1, headlined by a welterweight battle between Jake Ellenberger and Diego Sanchez. It is a good fight on paper, and since it has been given main event status, it would seem to put the winner right into the top tier of the crowded Welterweight division. Sanchez is looking to extend a two fight winning streak, but it has been almost a year since his last Octagon appearance. Ellenberger is riding a nice 5 fight winning streak where he has 4 TKO’s including a stunning KO of highly regarded Jake Shields. Ellenberger is closer to a title shot, and is favorite going into this fight.
This bout shows how deep the Welterweight class is. Right now, there are two guys in Nick Diaz and BJ Penn that are ‘retired’, but the top shelf of the division is still packed.
Josh Koschek, Johnny Hendricks, Jon Fitch, Jake Shields and Martin Kampmann are all jockeying for position beneath interim Champion Carlos Condit and longtime divisional kingpin Georges St Pierre.
I see Ellenberger being too much for Sanchez in this bout, and I think Sanchez would struggle with any of the guys on the above list. Ellenberger, on the other hand, has a tight split decision loss to Condit and wins over several of the top welterweights.
Sanchez has a chance, as he has kept a stellar record by finding a way to win. I don’t see Sanchez’s standup as potent enough to take out Ellenberger, and I don’t see him able to get Ellenberger to the ground. Ellenberger, on the other hand, does have KO power, especially early in the fight, and he should be able to control where the match takes place with his wrestling. Sanchez’ best option is to submit Ellenberger, or to set a pace that sees Jake tire. My money is on Ellenberger for this one.
Likely, Ellenberger won’t wait for Condit and GSP to unify the titles, he will probably have to fight Hendricks or Koschek – and those are two fights I would pay to see.
Ellenberger is a fresh face and a young fighter with a ton of upside. Of all the fighters in the top tier, he is probably the fighter that makes for the most exciting fights and has title fight material written all over him. Jake just has to keep winning.