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.

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