UFC 126: Ellenberger vs. Rocha

BY foxsports • February 4, 2011

I’ve never really been one to believe in the theory that a competitor can overlook a supposedly softer opponent while focusing on the bigger fish that lay further in the distance.

And still, what was once my absolute, sure-fire lock of UFC 126, Jake Ellenberger (23-5, 15 KOs, 5 SUBs) over Carlos Eduardo Rocha (9-0, 1 KO, 8 SUBs), is starting to lose its luster due to Ellenberger’s new-found obsession with Jon Fitch.

Rocha, without question, has the sexier record as he stands undefeated and has stopped every one of his opponents. The problem is that he has yet to really have the chance to impress me. His beating his way through Germany and then making quick work of Kris McCray isn’t enough to make me think he actually has a chance against one of the welterweight division’s most dangerous challengers. Of course, I could be wrong, and if he is able to make his all-too-affective ground game work for him in this fight, I will be the first to admit that I underestimated this new comer.

Ellenberger last fought in August and won a doctor’s-stoppage victory over John Howard due to some horrific swelling of the eye. Since then he has become a full-time smack-talker who is, it would seem, trying to climb him way up the ranks by continually calling out Fitch. He even, for one brief moment, had a match booked against the No. 2 welterweight in the world. But then the UFC 127 main event happened and it was scrapped and Ellenberger was forced to take this fight instead.

Some have claimed Ellenberger is a younger, harder-hitting version of Fitch, which is high, perhaps hyperbolic, praise indeed which isn’t entirely off the mark. In his victory over Howard he was able to utilize his upper-body strength to remain in control and then hit him with repeated strikes and made a mess of his left eye.

Staying upright against Rocha is going to be more difficult and also vitally more important. Rocha has shown that he can concoct a beautiful, yet effortless, submission pretty much out of thin air and that is what will keep us interested in this fight no matter how lopsided the scorecards become.

Ellenberger’s paranoia over accidentally walking into a leg lock is going to put the brakes on a lot of his offense and most likely will drive the contest deep into the third round. Like I said, maybe I am drastically underestimating Rocha, but my bet is that the hulking skill set of Ellenberger is probably going to be more than Rocha can handle.

Look for the first two rounds to be uneventful affairs with Ellenberger winning points through jabs and half-hearted takedown attempts while Rocha sits back happily looking for a chance to play fly paper. After winning the first two rounds and being nearly booed out of the building for his effort, I see Ellenberger committing to a takedown and then scoring with a power-based submission (kimura?) once on the mat.

Rocha’s career won’t end there but, like Charles Oliveira before him, he is in desperate need of a correction.

Pick: Ellenberger via third-round submission

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