Jake Shields vs. Jake Ellenberger
Not the most glamorous UFC main event we’ve ever seen, but nontheless this is a well matched fight between two of the welterweight division’s top contenders. Much of the pre-fight build-up has focused on Shields due to the fact that his father, who also served as his manager, passed away just weeks ago.
Shields strengths and weaknesses are well defined at this stage in his career. He’s clearly at his best on the ground where he is able to dominate with strong wrestling and a mastery of certain high percentage choke-based submissions. He’s not particularly dangerous from ground and pound though, often using strikes as a way to ensure the referee doesn’t stand him up rather than really pushing to finish the fight.
As for on the feet, I’ve never been impressed with Shields striking abilities. His technique is average at best and he simply has no power, though on the flip-side he does have a decent chin.
Ellenberger on the other hand is a fairly well rounded fighter. I see him having a clear advantage in the stand-up with his solid boxing ability delivering good punching power. On the ground I don’t think he’s as technical as Shields, but he is a good wrestler and is strong too, so I don’t see him being outmuscled.
Prediction: It’s hard to know exactly how Shields father passing away will affect his performance, but I’m leaning towards it having a negative effect. Even without that I still fancy Ellenberger here though. I think he has the wrestling ability to ensure this isn’t a one-sided lay-and-pray session, and instead will keep the fight on the feet long enough to expose Shields weaknesses in this area.
Jake Ellenberger to win by TKO in Rd2.
Court McGee vs. Dongi Yang
TUF Season 11 winner Court Mcgee faces off against South Korea’s Dongi Yang in a slightly curious choice for co-main event status.
McGee is a solid if not spectacular middlewight fighter. He pushes the pace well, is a tough, gritty, well conditioned fighter and can put in a decent shift whether on the ground or standing though wrestling is where he’s most effective.
Yang, known as ‘The Ox’, is a thickly built middleweight who prefers the stand-up game where he can utilize his heavy hands that have so far resulted in nine of his ten wins coming by way of TKO. He also has some wrestling ability, but he’s likely to use that to attempt to keep the fight standing rather than getting himself into a grappling bout with McGee.
Prediction: I think McGee’s conditioning could play a big factor in this fight. I don’t believe Yang has the gas tank to go three hard rounds at McGee’s pace and if the TUF star can avoid getting clocked with a big punch early and can find opportunities to take the South Korean down and wear on him early then it’ll pay dividends later in the fight with a ground and pound stoppage.
Court McGee to win by TKO in Rd3.
Erik Koch vs. Jonathan Brookins
Another former TUF winner Jonathan Brookins returns after moving down to featherweight to take on the very promising Erik Koch.
Brookins is far more accomplished on the ground than on the feet. He’s simply not a dangerous striker and he tends to get hit a lot more often than he should. He does take a punch well though and on top of that what he does do very effectively is close the distance and work from the clinch where he often quickly finds success with throws.
Meanwhile, Koch is an exciting, dynamic and quick striker that utilizes both kicks and punches effectively which will make him a real handful for Brookins if he chooses to stand with him for too long.
So there’s no doubt that Brookins will be looking to take this fight to the mat, and his strong wrestling, selection of tried and tested submissions and good overall pace on the ground make him a genuine threat there. Koch will also provide a submission threat if the fight does hit the canvas though, and he has survived a full three round with the division’s best wrester Chad Mendes in the past.
Prediction: A lot is likely to depend on how effective Koch is at either stuffing Brookins takedowns, or getting back to his feet as quickly as possible if he is taken down. It won’t be easy and Brookins won’t stop trying, but I think Koch is the kind of tricky customer that can spoil Brookins gameplan and make him pay on the feet over 15 minutes of action to prove that he’s going to be a genuine title contender at 145lbs in the future.
Erik Koch to win by decision.
Alan Belcher vs. Jason MacDonald
Alan Belcher returns after over a year on the sidleines due to a serious eye injury to face veteran Canadian Jason MacDonald.
Belcher appeared to be hitting form prior to his injury, displaying his entertaining, if a times a little overly gung-ho, muay thai striking and can pose serious problems for his opponents with his slick combinations. He also has good BJJ skills so he’s not the kind of fighter that can easily be taken advantage of on the mat either.
Still, the floor is where MacDonald is going to want to take this fight as his stand-up is very ordinary in comparison to his opponent and he can be stopped on the feet. He is dangerous on the ground though and he’s a more technical BJJ stylist than Belcher.
Conditioning could be a factor if this fight hits the later rounds. MacDonald’s cardio shouldn’t be an issue, but the big question is how well conditioned Belcher will be after such a long layoff.
Prediction: I have real concerns over Belcher’s stamina here, particularly as cardio wasn’t his strong suit to begin with, but overall I still feel that he is the better fighter of the two, and there is a far more significant gap between the two men’s striking abilities when compared to their BJJ skills. Ideally Belcher needs to put MacDonald away sooner rather than later, and I think he has the skills to do that.
Alan Belcher to win by TKO in Rd2.
Prelims: (Predicted winners in bold)
Cody McKenzie vs. Vagner Rocha
Evan Dunham vs. Shamar Bailey
Lance Benoist vs. Matt Riddle
Clay Harvison vs. Seth Baczynski
Ken Stone vs. Donny Walker
Mike Stumpf vs. TJ Waldburger
Mike Lullo vs. Robert Peralta
Justin Edwards vs. Jorge Lopez