UFC 173 preview – Ellenberger vs. Lawler

It’s interesting to look at UFC rankings and wonder how certain guys have managed to stay ranked for as long as they have. That’s the case with Jake Ellenberger, who carries a Top 10 UFC welterweight ranking coming into Saturday’s PPV feature fight with only one real Top 10 win on his resume. Since his blowout of Jake Shields, the only person in the combined span of both the UFC and Strikeforce to finish him, his best win was is easily Nate Marquardt; he’s 3-2 since then, losses to Rory MacDonald and Martin Kampmann against wins over Marquardt, Jay Hieron (who is 0-for his UFC career and retired shortly after a KO loss to Tyron Woodley) and Diego Sanchez (who dropped down to lightweight shortly thereafter).

Yet Ellenberger remains #5 in the world. Now he faces the guy many think is potentially the #1 fighter in the world in Robbie Lawler. Lawler, coming off a tight decision loss to Johny Hendricks, can propel himself right back into the title picture with a win. Ellenberger has the chance to do the same as well. We’re nearly guaranteed fireworks.

Fight Breakdown – Both Robbie Lawler and Jake Ellenberger have a similar style: both guys are hard charging wrestlers with big time power who love throwing bombs at one another. The fight, however, will arguably be decided by two things: Lawler’s boxing and Ellenberger’s cardio.

Ellenberger lost to Rory MacDonald because of his inability to adjust on the fly to someone jabbing him up. Ellenberger hopefully has been drilled his boxing because Lawler is good enough to do the same thing; jab, light him up, work to the body and get out. If his skill set hasn’t improved since the MacDonald fight, over a year ago and his last fight, then Ellenberger could be in for a long night. Look for Lawler to box him up, ala Hendricks, and look for something big to land.

Ellenberger’s cardio is the other issue. For the first seven minutes of a fight he’s a world beater … and there’s a reason why most of his finishes are early. The problem is that he empties his gas tank going for the finish, especially if he lands something that sets up a finish, and winds up making it a lot closer than it should be. If Lawler can get him to gas quickly in the first he should be able to sweep the next two without much of a problem.

Why it matters – A win here for either guy, especially with a finish, puts them in pole position for a title shot. The UFC is keen on Lawler/Hendricks 2, considering how close it was, and Ellenberger/Hendricks isn’t a bad fight either. The UFC wants to get its most prestigious division back in line now that it has a proper champion once again after the title vacancy.

Prediction – Lawler