Post-Fight Analysis: Rory Macdonald vs Jake Ellenberger

Hello again Bloody Elbow community! I hope you enjoyed the fight as much as I did. Writing a technical breakdown on both Rory and Jake made the experience of watching it a totally different experience.

It appears that some people were frustrated by the fight and the lack of "fireworks" as promised by the hype. For me however, the fight was entertaining as I saw it through the lens of deliberate strategy and technical negation from Rory.

In my opinion, it's hardly fair to blame Rory for what had happened during the fight. In fact, what Rory actually did was defuse the dangerous bombs that Jake possesses while being defensively technical and competent. Rory did not need to emphasize more risky attacks as he was facing an opponent that is strictly competent at punishing in an exchange range.

The format of the following article is as follows:

  • Section 1 reviews "pre-fight tendencies"
  • Section 2 is a summary of these variables at play during the fight
  • Section 3 shows the evidence through collages
  • Section 4 discusses how and why this fight turned out the way it did

Section 1: Pre Fight Analysis:

In Pre-fight analysis Part 1, I highlighted the tendencies of Ellenberger and the blue print of how to beat him:

Jake's striking tendencies in his last three fights:

(Ordered by effectiveness)

1. Flings a jab out to draw in his opponents, in hopes that his opponent will come in and start exchanging with him.

2. Throws a stiff forward step jab that rarely lands, but backs the opponent up

3. Performs an explosive, telegraphed long range lead with his right hand, with a low success rate, but also backs the opponent up.

4. Low kicks sometimes, usually no more than 1-2 per minute; usually lands.

5. He loves his hooks, with his right hook being his most effective punch- both has shown its effectiveness.

Jake's hook tendencies in the last three fights:

a) Waits for opponent to come in, he ducks under the incoming punch (or takes the kick) and throws a hook in response. He is effective with either hand but more often and more so with right hand, and these reasons are precisely why people call him a good counterpuncher. This is his most effective tendency within his hook tendencies.

b) He shoots forward with a hook. When his opponent is willing to trade or does not interrupt Jake's rhythm, Jake proceeds into a left-right or right-left hook combination.

c) If you allow him and stay in exchange range, it becomes a 3 or even 5+ hook combo. When it's 5+ I call it "Juggernaut Mode" : happened many times in Kampmann fight.

Blue Print (to beating Jake):

1. Be better at exchanging in medium (hook) range. This is both unlikely and dangerous.Although Rory has good elbows and punches in this range, it can work, but I'd seriously think twice about using it.

2. Competent at throwing straight punches. Rory is quite competent at this and he knows his range well. He needs to have a good enough feint, safety lead jab, and counter jab for interruption *See any of Jack's articles about the jab. GSP will also help him a lot with this, and it was displayed against BJ. He throws more straight punches and jabs than any other technique. His 3.5 inch reach advantage is also pretty important here. Straight punches alone can and probably will cause Jake problems.

3. Be a technical and defensively competent kicker. A kicker that can go high to pin in his right arm, as well as go low to off balance him. A major factor will be whether he telegraphs his kicks (which he doesn't do much already). While Rory isn't a great kicker, he does set them up, and he does have tricky high kicks...

...With low kicks Rory swings down and leaves both sides quite open- though it could be because he could get away with it. This is pretty unacceptable against Jake: the next breakdown will discuss this in much greater detail. It seems quite possible that they will develop his kicks even more for this fight. This will also probably play a big factor.

4. Have good movement, know when to circle out of exchange. Rory needs to pick his fight very carefully, though he tends to be patient and has competent footwork.

5. Can and will engage the clinch- in order to prevent and eliminate the medium range as often as possible. Rory does engage in the clinch, though I'm not sure how well he can execute this against Jake.

In pre-fight analysis part 2, I briefly highlighted Rory's main strengths - mainly the jab and emphasized his exploitable tendencies:

1. After Rory kicks he gets off-balanced and lands way out of position. He uses southpaw switch into stiff-arm to compensate.

2. He does not have a solid kicking base or balance.

3. He leaves his arm down when kicking, with little to no technical defence.

4. Rory gets backed up against the cage, becomes vulnerable by switching into southpaw or doing silly kicks.

5. Rory should not kick often against Jake unless his kicking is further developed.

General Strategy for Jake to Beat Rory Macdonald in Striking

1. Avoid straight punching range as this is what Rory "specializes" in. This is also the range that Jake is not particularly effective in.

2. Wait for him to kick, make a mistake, and counter. He makes mistakes so often that it doesn't necessarily take patience to find it.

3. Back him up against the cage, if you see southpaw switch, immediately fire away with a left right / right left hook combination

4. It'd probably be wise to avoid the clinch due to elbows and his strong clinch. Jake also has a relatively weak understanding of Thai clinches.

Section 2: Post-fight Breakdown and Tendencies at Play

As expected, both fighters tried to utilize their strengths. For Rory, it was straight punches, and for Jake, it was hooks. However, it was not nearly as simple as how a straight punch (jab) negates hooks by disrupting and interrupting the rhythm. The outcome of this fight was contingent on what Jake and Rory did and did not do

Rory Macdonald:

1. Feinted his jabs about 3x per actual jab, and used a variety of jabs as discussed and expected

2. Very disciplined in positioning the right hand to block the left hook and to easily parry a jab

3. Drew hooks with feints and jabs and backed away leaving Jake more and more hesitant

4. Utilized stiff-arm to keep distance (and to deflect hooks)

5. Did not low kick, performed 2-3 mid-section roundhouses, 5-6 front kick mid section or higher, 3-4 high roundhouses (mainly right leg). **The lack of low kicks and mid-section kicks were very deliberate. Rory threw roundhouses only in the long-kicking range as Jake was backing up. His teeps were properly timed. He did not off-balance himself in a dangerous position a single time in this fight. And although Rory's arm was not in proper defensive position, Jake was in a purely defensive mode and out of position to capitalize.

6. High elbow block, angling the head off the hooking line

7. Utilized shoulders consistently to deflect punches

8. Stayed away from cage

9. Engaged clinch when in dangerous exchange range

10. Feinted the right hip pretty often

Jake Ellenberger:

1. Could not establish straight punches (as expected and discussed)

2. Painfully predictable in headhunting with hooks

3. Painfully predictable with loading his base and punches

4. Painfully predictable in pulling his arm back before launching punches

5. Did not go to body at all to exploit a forearm/stiff-arm defence despite the fact that it was there for him

6. Missed practically every kick due to lack of timing and absolutely no setup

7. Waited for Rory in hopes of countering his jab

8. Did not consistently try to back Rory up

9. Did not capitalize on the few times Rory was out of position and in southpaw stance

Section 3: Evidence

Round 1:


#1-5 Displays a successful jab and an unsuccessful attempt to counter jab- Rory is more than ready with his right hand positioning in #4. He shifts back just in case- Jake had no chance of landing anything effectively.

#6 Showed how when Rory kicked, Jake backs up and goes into defensive mode

#7-9 Showed how Rory uses stiff arm, back-pedal, and parry to negate Jake's offense


#1, 3, 4, 5, 6 Showed how painfully obvious Jake was loading up to attack

#2 Lack of distance control and setup for kick

#3 Stiff-arm defence

#8 Southpaw switch off position- Jake was not ready to capitalize


#1-#2 Rory jabs and Jake slips, #3 instead of coming in with left hook he throws a jab and actually gets Rory (probably because Rory expected a left hook)

#4 Lack of range, timing, and setup from Jake

#5 Stiff-arm

#6-9 Effective blocking and **using forearm to control Jake's head to off-balance


#1-2 Jab to high-kick set up

#4 Effective jabs

#5-8 Right hook counter over the jab- Rory sees it and *rolls with it to the right and engages the clinch

#9 Easily lands jab and parry the very far off left hook


#1 Painfully obvious loading

#2-4 High forearm / elbow deflection with shoulder protection

#7-9 No kick setup, lacking timing and sense of range


#1-4 Tried to counter jab with left hook but is very out of position

Round 2:


#1 Stiff arm

#2 Long kick distance with Jake in defensive mode

#3 No step-up kick and misses

#4 High forearm block ready

#5-6 Rushing forward with left hook and getting stiff-armed with parry

#8-9 Failed predictable left hook with Rory's good positioning with hands and movement


#1 - 2 : Jab to front high kick set up, which almost lands but hits hair instead

#3 - 4, #6 : Employing high elbow forearm / shoulder defence

#5, #7, #9 Predictable hooks and swung way out of range

#8 Over-reaction to feinted kick


#1-2 No set-up for kicks,

#3-5 Right-left hook combo almost lands but is negated by stiff-arm and back pedal. Rory's hand was out of position but the left hook landed on his collarbone.

#6-9 Feinted going in and Jake over-commits


#1 - 2 : Proper high kick distancing, Jake goes purely defensive

#4-9 Stiff arm with right hand in position to block hook


#1 - 6 Got backed up against the cage, stiff-armed, circles to left and left-hook/pushes in southpaw stance to make Jake run into the cage

#7-8 No response for kicks except defence

#9 Useless kick-raise

Round 3:


#1-2, #6, #8 Stiff-arm, arm deflection

#3-5 Front kick to mid-section and face

#7, 9 No kick setup


#1-2 Gets interrupted by jab coming in for an explosive right hook

#3-5 Tricky high chambered high kick

#6 Front kick to the chin

#7 Easily response to jab, #8 is the first and only left hook thrown

#9 Elbow defence


#1 - 5 Elbow defence

#6, 8, 9 Stiff arm

#7 Teep


#1-4 Jab set up to front kick (displaying the lack of solid base/balance again)

#5-9 Elbow block defence when backed up against the cage and then engages clinch perfectly as Jake comes in.

Section 4: Discussion

Much of what I have to mention was actually mentioned prior to the fight:

The Matchup (Pre-Fight Analysis Part 2)

After doing this striking analysis, the match up appears to be much more dynamic and exciting than previously thought. It's true that Rory will utilize his straight punches to stop Jake before he even starts. It's also probably true that Firas Zahabi would caution him against kicking. But in the past few fights Rory has shown the willingness to trade and test most of his ranges.

Even worse is that Rory consistently get backed up to the cage by opponents with a lesser base than Jake. And if Rory chooses to kick, he increasingly reveals more exploitable tendencies. The amount of evidence in Rory's last two fights alone should allow Jake's camp to pick up some sound strategy.

Range and Strategy (Pre-Fight Analysis Part 1)

There are three ranges in striking: long range, medium range, and short range. Rory is most competent in the long range and how well he does in this fight is contingent on the execution of techniques in this range. If this range does not work, he can engage the clinch.

Jake is almost exclusively competent in the medium-exchange range; the key for Rory is to pick Jake apart and defuse his hook bombs. Rory is one of the more complete strikers in the division, Rory does have the skills needed to win, and by all means this is not an easy fight for Jake.

I know for a fact that Tri-Star emphasizes a "chaos-removal strategy". Though Rory is not as extreme as GSP at employing this, it's pretty necessary here. I'm almost certain Blue Print points #2 and #3 will be strongly emphasized during his camp.

It just so happens that Rory's tools of strength are what counter's Jake's striking skill-sets. Jake should know this, and it appears that he is trying to get into Rory's head by trying to frustrate him over Twitter and news media. Jake is most likely doing this with the hope that it will drive Rory into trading with him, at a range that he has the best chance in.

Not a bad idea, but Firas Zahabi has probably thought all this out with much more intricacy.

Indeed, it seems that Tri-Star and Firas Zahabi did think it out with much more intricacy. They effectively employed their "chaos removal strategy" via these methods:

1. Emphasizing the jab

2. Limiting sloppy kicks and low/mid-section kicks

3. Employing competent stiff-arm, hand positioning, elbow and shoulder defence.

The game becomes overwhelmingly simple when a fighter has the skill-sets and is disciplined in using them. In this fight, we saw exactly that. Rory and his camp were aware of his flaws and how it may be exploitable by Jake. Not only did they go with safe options, they made it even safer by emphasizing defence. It's clear that Rory's camp did a lot of work on what kicks to throw and how to avoid danger near the cage. Not once was Rory in dangerously out of position (after a kick) like he was in his previous fights. He also avoided the cage for the most part.

This is a display of open-mindedness and willingness to improve by acknowledging your flaws.

Jake however, displayed rather narrow thinking. He did not set up his kicks, and the whole time he just went to head-hunting mode with predictable hooks. He did not or could not establish straight punches, and him loading up certainly did not help him land hooks. Jake almost always over-slipped the jabs, leaving him little room for clean counters. Rory's body was often there for Jake to strike, but Jake lacked fight I.Q in this instance by not acknowledging that. He did not set up his kicks or follow up with punches thereafter.

Jake's one-dimensional striking game can be effectively countered by the jab alone. There isn't a need to take risks in throwing other punches (not only is it more risky, Rory is also less competent with them).

It's quite clear that Rory worked on his exploitable tendencies and that his camp made sure to correct it. It's also quite clear that Jake lacked sound strategy as he established close to nothing in this fight. He didn't have a plan B since his whole game plan revolved around his usual hooks. The outcome of this fight was decided by this as well as the sound strategy employed by Rory.

I have nothing against people who think fighters should take more risks to make the fight "more entertaining". However, being very technical and executing a sound strategy ought to be acknowledged. Even more than that is a young fighter who displays strict discipline. A fighter who has elite skills, sound strategy, and the discipline to execute them is a fighter of championship caliber.

It's been really fun doing a complete pre-fight post fight analysis. As always, thank you for reading!

My Twitter!

\The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.

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