This Friday night another season of the hit reality series The Ultimate Fighter comes to a close with Al Iaquinta and Michael Chiesa battling for the series title and a six-figure contract, but the top-billed fight is a welterweight affair with something-of-the-night written all over it when Jake Ellenberger meets Martin Kampmann.
There is quickly becoming a logjam at the top of the 170-pound division with two champions and a slew of contenders – With divisional king George St-Pierre sitting on the sidelines and interim champ Carlos Condit waiting for answers the winner of this fight could find themselves battling for the interim crown.
Despite most insiders in the industry having a keen eye on Ellenberger for years he didn’t get a chance to test his skills against the best in the UFC until 2009 – In the four-year period from when he started out to when he got the all-important phone call to join the UFC ranks he had 25 fights facing some tough customers in Pat Healy, Gil Castillo, Jay Heiron & Rick Story.
You hear all the time about first days from hell, Ellenberger faced current UFC interim welterweight champ Carlos Condit in his UFC debut which on paper seemed like just that but “The Juggernaut” wasn’t going to roll over and die.
In fact he gave Condit everything he could handle and then some but Condit was able to narrowly sneak past Ellenberger collecting a split decision victory on points which was the last defeat on his record.
Ellenberger had to prove that he was worth to tangle with the big boys at 170-pounds and has done so, not tasting defeat since then proving his worth at the top of the division knocking out former Strikeforce middleweight champ Jake Shields last year, becoming the first man to stop him in over a decade.
His impressive streak continued with his Fight of The Night winning performance against Diego Sanchez last February using the high-tempo offensive nature of his cross-wielding opponent against him counter-striking with a series of knees, punches and kicks en route to a decision.
While most expect the 27-year-old Reign Training Center product to challenge for UFC gold one day Kampmann isn’t willing to be a stepping stone for anyone – The Danish kickboxer has been a staple of the UFC’s welterweight division since 2006 beginning as a middleweight.
Despite being considerable smaller than his 185-pound contemporaries he went 3-1 defeating former title-challenger Thales Leites but a one-sided loss to Nate Marquardt forced him down to welterweight where he currently resides.
The 30-year-old Xtreme Couture product struggled to shake the image of an uber-exciting gatekeeper and back-to-back controversial decision losses to Jake Shields and Diego Sanchez didn’t help his cause but his losing skid has come to a close.
First he convincingly defeated Rick Story and followed it up submitting top-ranked combatant Thiago Alves in Sydney, Australia that saw him overcome a lot of punishment to force his victory.
With 24 knockouts between them it’s safe to say that both men can throw fists of fury – The Dutchman might be the more technical striker with more hand-to-hand combat experience but Ellenberger brings power to the table on a different level.
Ellenberger doesn’t throw many punches but the ones he does throw he makes them count throwing with crushing power – The stocky welterweight is comfortable to sit in the pocket, wait for his opponent to come to him and punish them with his counter-striking.
Kampmann on the other hand doesn’t rely on bone-crunching power, he uses his frenetic pace and constant activity to weave in and out landing his offence with great precision and accuracy like he did en route to busting up the face of two-divisional star Diego Sanchez.
If the Denmark native is pestering Ellenberger on the feet he has the clear option of taking him off his feet as he holds a clear edge in the wrestling department.
Ellenberger was an accomplished amateur wrestler for the University of Nebraska but his wrestling for MMA is much better – He is able to seamlessly fight off takedowns from good wrestlers in the past and keeps in his opponents face constantly with his strikes to set up his powerful double-leg takedown.
Since linking with Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas Kampmann has worked on his game with some world-class wrestlers and his takedown defense has improved ten folds but the Omaha native is one of the better wrestlers he’s had to deal with.
And if he can get him down Ellenberger is a savage when he gets his opponents on the floor with his ground-and-pound, especially when he incorporates his elbow strikes that forced a cut to Sanchez in his last outing.
An interesting aspect of this fight is the submission game of Kampmann, while most think of him as a striker half of his UFC victories have come by submission – Learning the art of jiu-jitsu from ADCC submission grappling champion Robert Drysdale he possesses a devastating guillotine choke that Ellenberger better be weary of.
He also spent a majority of his time on the floor with world-renowned jiu-jitsu practitioner Jake Shields last year who was unable to force him to submit – That being said, Ellenberger has not been submitted since 2006 and has a few taps to his credit also.
Due to this fight receiving top billing at the Palms Casino Resort this fight is scheduled for five rounds, a feat that neither man has conquered to date.
Ellenberger nearly allowed his fight against Sanchez to slip through his fingers, after dominating for ten minutes bloodying the Greg Jackson-trained fighter his cardio couldn’t hold up allowing Sanchez to surge back with his second wind, with an extra ten minutes he might have won that fight.
Kampmann isn’t known as a cardiovascular machine either and he doesn’t run triathlons in his spare time but in the six times he has gone to the judges’ score cards in his career he hasn’t shown major signs of fatigue but an extra ten minutes might change that.
When the octagon door closes this Friday night behind these two warriors expect nothing short of World War 3 as these two will throw everything but the kitchen sink at one another to stamp their ticket as the top-contender for a welterweight crown.
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