UFC 158: Jake Ellenberger vs. Nate Marquardt Preview and the Prognostication

Nate hopes to land on Jake Ellenberger the same way he did against Woodley. - Photo by Esther Lin/Forza

UFC 158 truly begins with the first welterweight fight on the main card when Jake Ellenberger takes on a late notice, but familiar opponent in Nate Marquardt.

When the UFC 158: St. Pierre vs. Diaz main card begins, it technically won't begin until the first welterweight fight, which was initially supposed to pit Jake Ellenberger up against Johny Hendricks. A Rory MacDonald injury forced a game of musical chairs that now has Ellenberger up against Nate 'the Great' Marquardt.

I'm not sure which fight is better (well, yea, I do), but I do know this fight is almost as interesting. Nate has had what I'd call a deceptively successful career at MW. His first loss was to Anderson Silva at UFC 73 in a title fight, and didn't suffer a real bad loss until moving down to WW when he fought Tarec Saffiedine. He's a title contender always just shy of title contention.

This sort of describes Ellenberger as well. He only has two losses in the UFC, but it feels like more for a guy who was a few punches removed from finishing the cement-chinned Carlos Condit.

Nate Marquardt (32-11-2) vs. Jake Ellenberger (28-6)

What they can do: The funny thing about Nate is while he's remembered more for his combinations (Gouviea/Woodley), it's not the way he generally fights on the feet. He's capable of throwing a wicked combination, but he usually just picks his shots one at a time. He has a little bit of Floyd Mayweather on him; in love with the lead off right hand. In boxing it's called the pull counter, and Nate has become quite proficient with it over the years.

This is Nate's specialty; speed connecting with power, with a dose of novelty. And by novelty, I mean spinning back fist combinations, and powerbombs. His ground game, while solid, is all top control. But he's got chops in the wrestling department, and covets a wicked guillotine.

Ellenberger's reputation more or less started when he punched the hydrochloric acid out of Jose 'Pele' Landi-Jons. You can watch the fight here, which starts (and ends) at 5:51 (convulsing begins at 6:56). This is Jake's trick: being able to land punches with the violence of a Sam Peckinpah film.

He's a good wrestler too.

What they can't do: The knock on Jake has always been his lack of durability. In in his two UFC losses, he had both opponents 'on the ropes' only to fade late. Even in his win over Diego Sanchez he was more or less saved by the fact that the fight wasn't five rounds ( a reality hard to believe given Diego's recent performances).

Thankfully for Jake, he's capable of putting Nate on his back, and Nate ain't exactly great in that position. While he's skilled in the grappling department, he has little flexibility, and prefers instead to get back to his feet where he can get back and win scrambles in the clinch.

If you're a gambling man, this is not the fight to bet on. The odds don't favor one guy heavily over the other, and it's easy to see how fortunes might change. For example, Nate doesn't have an especially sturdy chin. Maybe that's an odd thing to say for a guy who's never been officially knocked out, despite 45 career fights, but I can never shake the image of him getting dropped by Thales Leites.

Moreover, he hasn't fought many guys with face-melting power. Most of his career was fought well below MW, and other than Woodley and Silva, none of the his opponents have been power punchers.

However, this is precisely why I'm going with Nate. Yes, he can be hurt, but he mostly avoids damage on the feet by keeping it cool. He doesn't leave himself wide open, and does a good job of staying at range. Plus, he lands that right hand so well I have to believe he'll get to Jake repeatedly. It's important to remember that Marquardt is no slouch when it comes to power. He did punch the skin off Tyron Woodley's upper lip. Literally.

And that was in the 4th round of what turned out to be an action packed fight. Ellenberger gasping for air (though his cardio has improved), fighting for takedowns, and wading through right hands, elbows, and kicks sounds like the kind of crimson-brick road he won't be capable of following.

Not that I think Nate will win by knockout, but I like what I saw against Woodley, who I suspected would keep Nate pinned to the ground. The Tarec loss was just a clash of styles. Ellenberger looks nothing like Saffiedine, physically as much as stylistically.

Prediction: Nate Marquardt by Decision.

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