Jake Ellenberger's UFC on FUEL victory over Diego Sanchez on Wednesday night was an entertaining battle, but it was more than that: It was a demonstration that Ellenberger is one of the best welterweights in the world, and a fighter who's ready for a title shot.
So let's not wait. Let's see that title shot right away. Let's see Carlos Condit defend the UFC interim welterweight title against Ellenberger as soon as possible.
It's not so much that Ellenberger is the clear No. 1 contender as that it's just the right fight to make right now. It makes sense based on timing -- Ellenberger and Condit should both be ready to take the fight by the summer -- and it also makes sense because Condit and Ellenberger have already fought once, in 2009, and it was a split decision. Condit and Ellenberger had a close 15-minute fight last time. Let's see if one of them can finish it within 25 minutes this time.
UFC President Dana White said after the fight that he sees Condit waiting to fight until champion Georges St. Pierre is healthy. But Condit said that if GSP won't be ready to go until November or later he'd be up for fighting again in the meantime, and GSP has said he thinks November is as soon as he'll be ready. There's no reason for Condit to be sitting on the sidelines just because St. Pierre is hurt. (Ask Rashad Evans how that usually works out.)
Ellenberger was classy after his victory on Wednesday night, praising Sanchez as a tough opponent. But I wish he had also called out Condit and asked for a rematch. The fans in his native Nebraska would have roared for that, and when the fans ask for a fight, the UFC usually delivers.
Even if Ellenberger isn't demanding the fight, this is the fight the UFC should book. The UFC has a whole lot of fight cards it needs to fill up on pay-per-view, FOX, FX and FUEL, so it can't afford to pass up booking great fights. And a great fight is just what an Ellenberger-Condit rematch would be. This is the fight that needs to happen.
UFC on FUEL notes
--I continue to be impressed by the UFC fighters who are commenting on the FUEL, FOX and FX broadcasts. Although Kenny Florian isn't quite as smooth in his delivery as Joe Rogan, he makes up for that by drawing on his experiences as a professional fighter. As UFC newcomer Bernardo Magalhaes walked out to the Octagon before the first fight, Florian talked about the jitters he felt when he made his own UFC debut at the first Ultimate Fighter Finale. And Brian Stann was outstanding as the studio analyst next to Jay Glazer. In other pro sports leagues we're accustomed to former athletes offering those types of perspectives on TV broadcasts, but the UFC has rarely had that. Florian and Stann bring something new to the table.
--The planned preliminary fight between UFC newcomers Buddy Roberts and Sean Loeffler was called off at the very last minute when Loeffler suffered an ankle injury while warming up. It's disappointing for both guys, but it happens. The list of fighters who have pulled out on fight day include Ken Shamrock before his fight with Kimbo Slice, Kevin Randleman before his fight with Pedro Rizzo, Matt Riddle before his fight with Luis Ramos and Alessio Sakara before his fight with Jorge Rivera. Not a list Roberts and Loeffler were hoping to join.
--Jonathan Brookins had every reason to be excited after knocking out Vagner Rocha, but I wish Brookins would have tempered his celebration: Brookins did a backflip in the Octagon, and when he landed the canvas shook while the referee was trying to check on Rocha. It's not a good idea for one fighter to be jumping around inside the Octagon while another fighter is unconscious, and the UFC should urge fighters to restrain themselves when fallen opponents are being attended to.
UFC on FUEL quotes
--"I was thinking about Sakuraba and just like, 'What would Sakuraba do in this moment?' And I did it."--Ivan Menjivar on how he withstood a barrage of punches from John Albert. Perhaps "What Would Sakuraba Do" will replace "What Would Jesus Do" in the MMA lexicon.
--"Three weeks after the Martin Kampmann fight [Diego Sanchez] was back in sparring. He still had the stitches in his face. The coaches had to tell him, 'Diego, this probably isn't a good idea.'"--Brian Stann, discussing how quickly his teammate Diego Sanchez got back to work after his brutal fight with Martin Kampmann last year. Sanchez was under medical suspension and should not have been sparring three weeks after that fight. The coaches were right to tell him not to spar.
--"Anton's a bad dude. ... He's a tough, physical, guy, hard to take down and hits hard, but once I get in my flow of fighting I'll be going all day long."-- Justin Salas after his unanimous decision victory over Anton Kuivanen. Salas looked good in his UFC debut.
I was glad that two judges gave Tim Means a 10-8 round in his unanimous decision victory over Bernardo Magalhaes, and that all three judges gave T.J. Dillashaw at least one 10-8 round in his unanimous decision victory over Walel Watson, with two judges giving Dillashaw two 10-8 rounds. Judges should award 10-8 rounds more often.
1. Unfortunately, as much as I'd like to see more 10-8 rounds, I can't imagine how one judge scored a 10-8 round in the Salas-Kuivanen fight. All three rounds were close, and yet one judge scored the fight 29-27, which would mean that judge scored a round 10-8. Hard to understand.
2. Nebraska referee Bo Nesslein was trying a little too hard to create his own catch phrase by starting every round by saying, "Let's make it hot!" Refs shouldn't try to make it about themselves, and Nesslein should simply tell the fighters to start fighting.
Lightweight Tim Means looked very good in his UFC debut. Means has great height and reach for a lightweight and was able to use it effectively to keep Magalhaes at bay and batter him with jabs, and I particularly like the way Means uses punches to the head to set up punches to the body. Means had 20 pro fights before making his UFC debut, mostly in King of the Cage, and he looked very comfortable and ready to do big things inside the Octagon.
Aaron Simpson landed one hard uppercut in the first round of his split decision loss to Ronny Markes, but after that Simpson didn't impress me at all: Simpson has a good wrestling pedigree, but it was Markes who was controlling Simpson in the clinch and on the ground. After going 3-0 in 2011, Simpson is off to an unimpressive start in 2012.
Fight I Want to See Next
Ellenberger-Condit 2. When they fought last time, two judges scored it 29-28 for Condit, and one judge scored it 29-28 for Ellenberger. Condit is 4-0 since then and Ellenberger is 6-0 since then. The time for the rematch has come.