The UFC Gate Keepers

Last night at UFC Fight Night 28, Ronaldo Souza was able to pick up an impressive win over Yushin Okami in the middleweight division. That victory established Souza as a legit contender in the division, as he was able to beat the “gate keeper” of the division in Okami.

The “gate keeper” is a fighter that is good enough to be one of the top fighters in the division, but not good enough to beat the elite few on top. They will likely never be a champion, but they will never be without an important fight or spot within the UFC. Here are who I see as the gate keepers in the UFC.

Flyweight – Ian McCall: McCall is a great flyweight, but already has proven that he can’t compete with the likes of Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez. He just doesn’t have the skills to break into the top.

Bantamweight – Urijah Faber: Faber is a tremendous talent, but he was clearly outclassed by Renan Barao and lost his last fight with Dominick Cruz. Faber is just a step to slow to earn the title.

Featherweight – Dustin Poirier: “The Diamond” is a great fighter, but he hasn’t been able to get the job done in his toughest fights. He will always be in discussion as a top-5 featherweight, but not able to get any higher.

Lightweight – Jim Miller: Miller has tremendous heart and wrestling ability, but he can’t quite get to the mountain top. If a contender isn’t cut for the elite status, Miller will prove it.

Welterweight – Jake Ellenberger: Ellenberger seemed primed for a title shot with a win over Rory MacDonald, but he failed to take his talents to that next level. He can beat most of the division, but not the very best.

Middleweight – Yushin Okami: As said previously, Okami is a tough guy to get past, but if you can, it puts you in the 185-pound title picture.

Light Heavyweight – Antonio Rogerio Nogueira: Lil Nog is a talented fighter, but doesn’t really show anything to make you feel like he could actually be the 205-pound champion. He has some big wins, but some bad losses. If someone is going to be a champ in this division, they have to get through him.

Heavyweight – Antonio Silva: Silva proved he can’t be the champion of this division, getting hammered by Cain Velasquez on two occasions now. However, he owns wins over guys like Fedor and Alistair Overeem. Silva is no easy victory, but he doesn’t have the total package to be champ.

The flyweight problem in the UFC

The UFC on FOX 8 takes place this Saturday and the buzz isn’t quite there for this card like it has been for previous UFC on FOX cards.

That’s not to say there aren’t great fights – there are.

But, the UFC seems to have an issue in drawing interest in one of their most exciting divisions.

For the second time on FOX, the card will be headline by the flyweight division (125 pounds).

If you simply watch the UFC for fights, then this is no issue for you. The flyweight division provides plenty of excitement, and while the fights usually go the distance, but push a fast pace the entire time.

But, if you are FOX, or even if you are UFC brass concerned about ratings, the flyweights probably aren’t the ideal.

It would be easier for the UFC to market this card on the co-main event of Rory MacDonald vs. Jake Ellenberger than it is to market it on Johnson for John Moraga. I am going to guess many casual UFC fans don’t even know who Moraga is.

There is a reason that the flyweights have yet to main event a UFC PPV card. It is because the UFC can’t sell tickets on a flyweight bout. It’s not even very often that a flyweight bout has been part of a UFC PPV main card at all.

What the UFC really needs is one of two things. They need a legendary fight to come from Johnson vs. Moraga or they need an amazing highlight-reel finish.

If Johnson and Moraga put on a legendary fight, something along the lines of Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar, it allows the UFC to market the two in a similar way and create some buzz for the division. People will want to see both men fight again, either against each other or against new opponents.

If that can’t happen, the UFC needs someone to emerge as the clear start of the division. To do that, the organization needs an incredible knockout or submission finish in the fight.

The reason Anderson Silva and Jon Jones draw like they do is because they can do some amazing things in the cage and people want to see that. If a flyweight can establish himself as a star, it will give the UFC the ability to market them as a PPV main event.

UFC Fight Night 25 Recap: Jake Ellenberger has arrived

nullIf anyone had doubts about Jake Ellenberger being a top contender in the UFC welterweight division, they were put to rest on Saturday night.

The rising star knocked out Jake Shields in under a minute in the main event of UFC Fight Night 25, giving him the biggest win of his career over the recent No. 1 contender in the division.

It was an explosive victory, as Ellenberger used a big knee to set up a flurry of punches from the ground to finish the fight. But, in that short time, Ellenberger showed the tools he needs to be a star.

Early in the fight he threw an uppercut that would have ended the fight if it landed. Clearly he found a hole in Shields game in terms of his ability to defend inside punches.

Also, Shields had a few weak takedown attempts that Shields easily defended. In this division, takedown defense is going to be a big thing for Ellenberger.

His striking is on par with anyone in the division and his aggression is up there with anyone, which makes him a dangerous opponent. He is a fighter that is willing to fall on his sword in hopes of winning a fight, but he has all the skills to avoid that fate.

It will be interesting to see what is next for Ellenberger as he awaits the UFC welterweight Final Four that is coming up at UFC 137 in late October.

I will also be interested to see what is next for Shields. His drop to welterweight in the UFC has been anything but stellar, as he is now 1-2 and his one win was razor thin. Perhaps a move back to 185 pounds will be in order.

UFC Fight Night 25 Picks & Predictions

nullUFC Fight Night 25 takes place on Saturday night from New Orleans with a solid card of four free fights.

Here is a look at which fighters I like on Saturday, and why.

UFC Welterweight Bout – Jake Shields (26-5-1) vs. Jake Ellenberger (25-5) – Shields is coming off the loss of his father, which may affect his performance, but I think this is his fight to lose. Ellenberger is a rising star and clearly the better striker, but he is taking a big step up in competition. I see Shields being able to work in his takedowns and grappling control to earn a tough decision victory.

UFC Middleweight Bout – Court McGee (12-1) vs. Dongi Yang (10-1) – This is a classic striker vs. grappler match up, and I like the grappler to prevail. Yang has big punching power, but I see McGee getting this fight up against the cage where Yang will be neutralized. From there, look for McGee to grind out a few takedowns and eventually secure a choke in the later rounds.

UFC Featherweight Bout – Jonathan Brookins (13-3) vs. Erik Koch (12-1) – Koch is considered the favorite according to the oddsmakers, but my pick goes with Brookins. He needs a lot of work in his striking, but his grappling takes a back seat to nobody in the division. I see Brookins taking a few punches early, but eventually getting inside Koch and using a judo throw or roll to get the fight to the ground. From there, I expect Brookins to work in a choke to get the win.

UFC Middleweight Bout – Alan Belcher (15-5) vs. Jason MacDonald (26-14) – Belcher makes his return after more than a year off and he has a lot to fight for. He was a rising star in the division prior to his eye injury and he should have the skills to get past MacDonald, who is somewhat one dimensional, with a great submission skill set. Look for Belcher to pick apart MacDonald on his feet and avoid the ground game as he gets a decision win.

UFC Fight Night 25 Weigh-In Results

nullWeigh ins for UFC Fight Night 25 took place on Friday night and all of the main event fighters made weight for the card.

In the main event, welterweights Jake Shields (171) and Jake Ellenberger (170) came in on weight. The two are both fighting for a top-5 spot in a very stacked 170-pound division. Shields is hoping to bounce back after a loss to Georges St. Pierre at UFC 129, while Jake Ellenberger is taking on the biggest challenge of his MMA career.

In the co-main event, Court McGee (184.5) and Dongi Yang (186) came in on weight for the 186-pound limit. This fight lacks some name power, but the UFC must feel they will put on a good show. Both guys leave it all in the cage, with Yang being an explosive striker and McGee being a relentless grappler that likes to scrap on occasion. McGee would be wise to stick to making this an ugly fight in hopes of avoiding a big knockout punch.

For full weigh-in results for Saturday’s card, check out the jump. Results are courtesy of Sherdog.com.

Read the rest of this entry »

UFC Fight Night 25 Betting Odds – Shields Favored

nullUFC Fight Night 25 – Battle on the Bayou takes place this Saturday night on Spike TV and features a solid card for a free MMA event.

When looking at the betting odds for this card, Jake Shields finds himself as the favorite against Jake Ellenberger in the main event of Saturday’s event. Shields has a money line of -185 while Ellenberger comes in at +155. This is a pretty classic striker vs. grappler matchup. Shields has the experience and grappling edge while Ellenberger is the better striker and has more to gain in this contest. It should be an explosive fight that will pave the way for the winner to become a top 5 contender.

Alan Belcher makes his return to the UFC after more than a year away due to a career-threatening eye injury. Belcher will face off with UFC veteran, Jason MacDonald in a middleweight bout. The local hero, Belcher, is the favorite in the fight with odds of -275. MacDonald comes in with a money line of +215. Belcher is a guy that enjoys using his striking and clinch game to beat up opponents. MacDonald is more of a submission specialist that will want to get the fight down to the ground.

In other featured bouts, Jonathan Brookins (+165) opens as an underdog to Erik Koch (-205) in his first fight since winning The Ultimate Fighter last December. Another TUF winner, Court McGee (-165) opens as a favorite in his contest with Dongi Yang (+135).

Shields to fight Sept. 17 despite loss of father

nullI am not the biggest Jake Shields fan in the world.

But, I have to give the guy a lot of credit.

Shields will stick with his upcoming bout against Jake Ellenberger on Sept. 17 despite losing his father, Jack, at the age of 67 on Tuesday.

MMAFighting.com first reported that Shields would be fighting in a few weeks.

Jake Shields has decided to go through with his Sept. 17 fight against Jake Ellenberger at UFC Fight Night 25 following the recent death of his father and manager, Jack Shields. MMA Fighting confirmed the fighter’s decision with UFC officials.

GracieFighter.com broke the news of Jack Shields’ passing on Tuesday. He was 67 years old.

No word just yet on the cause of death. According to Sherdog.com, Shields died in his sleep on Monday at his Sacramento, Calif., home.

“Lost my father manager and one of my best friends today!! R.I.P jack you will be greatly missed and loved by many,” Shields was quoted as saying on the Web site.

I am fortunate to still have my father alive and well, but just the sheer thought of him passing away is enough for me to not want to do anything the rest of the day.

I am sure this is a tough time for Jake and I wish him my best as he goes through this period. I also give him a lot of respect for taking the fight with Ellenberger. It is a dangerous fight for him but I am sure he will have a lot of support going into the contest.

Jon Fitch is mad as hell and doesn’t want to take it anymore

Jon Fitch has been a No. 1 contender for a long time, but a title fight doesn’t appear to be in his future.

A lengthy recovery from an injury has caused the UFC veteran to be lost in the mix in the UFC welterweight division.

As you can see in the video, Fitch is not happy about being passed up for many of the big fights in the division and he is ready to do something about it.

Fitch has some good points. The guy has one loss in 15 UFC fights, and that was to current champ, Georges St. Pierre.

He is coming off a draw against B.J. Penn, but had that been a five-round fight, it appeared that Fitch was well on his way to another win.

Despite his lack of finishes, Fitch is still one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world and he deserves more respect than he is getting.

Shields vs. Ellenberger to take place at Ultimate Fight Night 25

nullIn some news that was quietly released on Sunday, it appears we have a main event for UFC Fight Night 25, dubbed “Battle on the Bayou”.

MMAFighting.com reported Sunday night that welterweights Jake Shields and Jake Ellenberger will collide. First rumors thought the bout may take place in San Jose at UFC 138, but it was announced on Tuesday that it will take place at UFC Fight Night 25.

Though the fight has not yet been made official by the UFC, sources close to the bout confirmed to MMA Fighting last week that the fighters have agreed to the planned matchup for this fall.

While a location for the fight is not yet certain, one possibility is the UFC’s planned Nov. 19 card in San Jose, Calif. That will be the promotion’s debut in the northern California city, about 40 miles south of the San Francisco Bay area, where Shields lives and trains. That event is likely to be UFC 138, though it has not yet been made official by the UFC.

Shields (26-5-1) is coming off a unanimous decision loss to Georges St. Pierre at UFC 129 while Ellenberger (25-5) has won four in a row. His last win was a first round KO of Sean Pierson at UFC 129.

Ellenberger is one of the promotion’s top rising welterweights and this will be the biggest fight he has had to date. His striking should be vastly superior to that of Shields, but his takedown defense and grappling will certainly be tested.

The UFC Dark Horses

nullEveryone knows who the champions are in the UFC.

But, to really know MMA is to know which fighters are the future of the sport.

I don’t pretend to be a psychic, but I do think I know a talented fighter when I see them. So, here is a list of one fighter in each division that is somewhat under the radar. Each of these guys has the raw ability to someday get to the UFC title, if they continue to evolve and strengthen their weaknesses.

Heavyweight – Travis Browne (10-0-1) – Browne is coming off a draw with Cheick Kongo at UFC 120, but that isn’t a terrible showing for just his second fight in the UFC. It was the first time Browne hadn’t won and he has knockout wins over Abe Wagner and James McSweeney to his credit. He also has five knockout wins that have come in under 60 seconds. If Browne can develop his grappling skills to match his punching power, he will become a very dangerous opponent in the heavyweight division. Browne will be showcased on UFC 130 as he takes on Stefan Struve.

Light Heavyweight – Matt Hamill (10-2) – In a stacked light heavyweight division, many are forgetting about Matt Hamill. Winner of five straight, Hamill has wins over Tito Ortiz and Keith Jardine, and technically is the lone black mark on Jon Jones’ career, though it was by disqualification. Still, Hamill has some of the best wrestling in the division and his boxing is getting better. He has also shown the ability to take a punch, which will come in handy at UFC 130, when he takes on Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. A win for Hamill has to put him in the top five for title contenders.

Read the rest of this entry »