Mark Kolbe, Getty Images
UFC welterweight Martin Kampmann doesn't have the best striking in the division. He doesn't have the best chin or the best wrestling. He is certainly not the best athlete. Yet, ahead of his main event bout tonight with rising contender Jake Ellenberger at The Ultimate Fighter Live Finale, Kampmann is as confident as any fighter can be.
It's true the Xtreme Couture product probably isn't the best in any single category or qualification when measured against the division's best, but Kampmann believes the combination of his very well-rounded skill set and experience tilt this fight heavily in his favor. Perhaps most importantly, though, isn't just talent in different dimensions of the game. It's that Kampmann is certain he's got precisely the offensive abilities in the exact places where Ellenberger is lacking.
"I think Ellenberger's got a lot of holes in his ground game and Diego [Sanchez] was able to get on top of him and beating on him and I'm gonna exploit those holes if I take this fight to the ground as well," Kampmann told Ariel Helwani this past Monday on The MMA Hour. "If it stays standing, I'm gonna pick him apart with my boxing."
"He makes a lot of mistakes and I can exploit them," Kampmann continued, "I'll submit him if it hits the ground. The thing is, he's hard to take down. He's got good wrestling. if he tries to take me down, I'll exploit those holes and I'll pick him apart standing up."
To be fair, no one is suggesting Kampmann has little reason to confident. However, it's worth acknowledging Ellenberger's on quite a roll. Not only has he won six straight at welterweight - an incredible feat by itself - but he's won four of them by KO/TKO stoppage, including a first round starching of former UFC title contender Jake Shields last year. To say 'The Juggernaut' packs a serious punch would be an understatement.
Yet, a strong power puncher who prefers a first-round blitzkrieg isn't something Kampmann's never faced before. At middleweight, Kampmann withstood an early barrage from Drew McFedries to earn a first-round submission. At welterweight and during his last bout, Kampmann was dominated by Thiago Alves only to miraculously win by submission late in the third round.
Kampmann knows Ellenberger can land with authority, but why worry when you've weathered similar storms?
"He's finished some tough guys," Kampmann admitted of Ellenberger. "He's definitely got some knockout power. He swings hard and he really commits hard to his punches. If he connects, I'm sure it's gonna hurt, but I can eat a punch. I'm not too worried about it."
If Kampmann believes in anything, it's that over the long haul everything in the fight will work to his benefit. To that end, tonight's five-round format is a fact Kampmann contends will play right into his hands.
"When you've only got three rounds at this level, you're fighting tough guys, three rounds sometimes is not always enough time to get the finish in and then like you said, sometimes the judges don't come through for you, but I'm going for the finish this time," said Kampmann.
"This time I've got five rounds, so that gives me a lot more time to finish the fight," Kampmann noted with confidence. "It's not going to go five rounds. I'm going to finish Jake Ellenberger."
Should Kampmann's pre-fight banter come true and he does finish Ellenberger, where does that put him in the division? For now, there's no telling. With the logjam at the top of the division, it's hard to suggest any one fight earns a title shot - especially with Carlos Condit and Johny Hendricks waiting in the wings - but Kampmann is certain it'll put him in close contention. "I haven't heard anything about [where we stand in the division with a win] but this is two of the top guys in the welterweight division and I think we deserve to be up there with a win," Kampmann said.
Despite the confusion, Kampmann's got some matchmaking ideas should he prevail tonight. Specifically, if UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre can't get back to action by his November timeline, interim champion Condit should face him instead of waiting.
"Everyone's waiting for GSP to be ready and Condit's waiting for the title and I can't blame him. I'd probably like to get that unification title fight as well. If GSP's ready by the end of the year, that's fine. But if he takes more time, Condit should take a fight before that."
Kampmann first has to get by Ellenberger, an incredibly difficult task. But with confidence in his skills and his journey as a top professional fighter in MMA, Kampmann's not worried. Whether it's a fight or the fight game itself, Kampmann is sure of one thing: over the long haul, everything will work out in his favor.
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