The Omaha, Neb. native headed up the UFC on Fuel 1 card on Wednesday night and pulled out a unanimous decision victory over Diego Sanchez.
But he didn’t get there without a true fight on his hands.
Ellenberger, who has worked extensively over the past couple of years at Mark Munoz’s Reign Training Center as well as training under legendary coach Rafael Cordeiro, showed off once again his powerful striking game and fearless demeanor in the cage.
It’s a rare moment that anyone puts Diego Sanchez on his heels, but Ellenberger crashed forward with big punches in each of the first two rounds. The power in his punches backed Sanchez off, and Ellenberger’s confidence grew with each minute that ticked away on the clock.
Sanchez walked to the corner at the end of the first five minutes with a cut on the bridge of his nose that may have actually indicated he had broken it during some of his fiery exchanges with Ellenberger.
Towards the end of round 2, Ellenberger wrapped up a quick double leg takedown and began blasting away with powerful punches and elbows. Like a powder keg exploding, Ellenberger just unloaded with strikes knowing that the round was almost over, and with the final horn sounding, he had to know he was up 2-0 on the scorecards.
But just because Diego Sanchez is down two rounds to none does not mean he’s out of the fight.
The former ‘Ultimate Fighter’ winner pressed forward during the final five minutes, and with the time ticking away, Sanchez got Ellenberger to the ground and look to take his back.
Sanchez dropped hammers on Ellenberger, trying to put him away, but the crafty veteran moved, wiggled and squeezed through the bad positions to keep from being finished. It was no easy task to get through the full 15 minutes with Diego Sanchez, but when the bout was over Jake Ellenberger had done enough to get the win.
“That was a tough position, I was tired, I had to fight through. You’ve just got to stay in there mentally,” Ellenberger described after the fight.
“Diego’s known for that, he’s the toughest guy I ever fought, but he’s a true warrior. No matter what he’s in there every minute of the fight. It’s an honor to fight him, it really is.”
The win could position Ellenberger for a rematch with new UFC interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit, who also happens to be the only fighter who has a win over him in the Octagon. Condit defeated Ellenberger by split decision in his UFC debut in 2009.
While nothing has been determined whether Condit will defend the title against someone like Ellenberger or wait for Georges St-Pierre to return later this year, the main event winner on Wednesday was just happy to perform in front of his hometown crowd.
“Omaha I love you guys,” Ellenberger said.
For his part, Diego Sanchez was as excited as ever after a three round war with Ellenberger. He promised to deliver an exciting fight, and he came through like FedEx with a ‘Fight of the Year’ performance.
“All I’ve got to say was that enough of a dogfight for you?” Sanchez asked of the Omaha crowd. “Jake got two rounds, I thought main events were going to be five? I’m ready for some more.”
Sanchez did reveal that he severely sprained his ankle just three weeks out from the fight, but after breaking his hand prior to his scheduled bout with Matt Hughes at UFC 135 last September, he wasn’t about to miss another fight in the Octagon.
“I couldn’t pull out of another fight,” Sanchez said. “I did everything I could.”
Ellenberger will now wait to see what the UFC wants to do with him next. He could very well face Carlos Condit later this year with the UFC interim welterweight title on the line, or possibly get the winner in the upcoming UFC on FX bout between Thiago Alves and Martin Kampmann.
Either way, Jake Ellenberger has proven he belongs among the best of the best at 170lbs in the UFC.