Ellenberger, Koch Emerge from UFC Fight Night 25 as Title Contenders

Jake Ellenberger

Middleweights McGee and Belcher also earn quality wins

Jake Ellenberger made the most of his first headlining fight in the UFC.

The 26-year-old Nebraska native easily shrugged off a pair of tepid takedown attempts in the opening seconds of the main event before blasting Jake Shields with a knee and finishing him on the ground before the one minute mark of the first round. While many believed Saturday night could be a coming out party for Ellenberger, few envisioned him demolishing the former Strikeforce middleweight champion so completely.

Ellenberger puts himself into the thick of the title conversation in the UFC welterweight division. After losing his debut to Carlos Condit by split decision—a result many still disagree with—”The Juggernaut” has put together a very nice five fight winning streak, including stoppages over Mike Pyle, Sean Pierson, and now Shields.

With Condit currently slated to face Georges St-Pierre at UFC 137 and Shields being the last man to challenge the champion, the explosive Ellenberger can make a very solid case for being consider a top contender in the 170 pound ranks. Though Ellenberger’s performance was the most impressive of the evening, he was not the only fighter to further his title hopes on Saturday night.

Erik Koch pushed his winning streak to four with a gritty unanimous decision win over TUF 12 winner Jonathan Brookins.

The bout was a battle of contrasting styles that made it a difficult contest to score. While Brookins tried to close the distance and turn the fight into a clinch battle, Koch looked to maintain space and use his superior striking. Both fighters were successful at times; Brookins controlling the action on the fence, but doing little damage, while Koch landed when given time and room to strike. In the end, the judges rewarded Koch’s striking over the positional control of Brookins along the cage, push the Roufusport products record to 13-1 overall.

Just 22-years-old, Koch has been steadily climbing the featherweight rankings over the last 18 months. After dropping a unanimous decision to Chad Mendes at WEC 47, “New Breed” rattled off three straight first round stoppage wins between the WEC and UFC, the final two both earning him Knockout of the Night honors. While Saturday’s win over Brookins wasn’t as glamorous, it’s another tick in the win column nonetheless, a positions Koch for another step up the ladder next time out.

Fighting for the first time in 16 months, Alan Belcher showed no signs of ring rust or ill effects from the detached retina that sidelined him in brutalizing Jason MacDonald.

“The Talent” took advantage of MacDonald’s decision to pull guard by raining down heavy strikes on the ground, hurting the Canadian with a big right hand. While MacDonald tried to recover and cover up, Belcher was simply too powerful and too aggressive, posturing up and dropping big shots, forcing MacDonald to verbally submit to strikes at 3:48 of the opening round.

The victory puts Belcher right back on the track he was forced from last September when the issues with his eye surfaced. He’s now won three straight and five of six overall, the lone loss being a close split decision defeat to Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 100. With the middleweight division still lacking serious depth, Belcher could be in line for  a top 10 opponent.

TUF 11 winner Court McGee once again used his tremendous conditioning to battle through a tough test and emerge victorious, defeating a game Dongi Yang in the co-main event of the evening. Though McGee collected the unanimous decision victory with scores of 30-27, 29-28, and 30-28, the bout was closer than the cards indicate.

Throughout all three rounds, McGee and Yang stood in front of each other and matched strikes, neither one landing anything too forceful through the first two frames. After a quiet start to the third, Yang connected with a straight left that wobbled McGee. The South Korean charged in landing a flying knee, but McGee came through the exchange and picked up the pace from there.

Always in tremendous condition, the 26-year-old former heroin addict pushed the pace on the tired Yang over the final half of the closing round. McGee pumped his jab and followed with solid right hands. After finally dragging Yang to the canvas, McGee transitioned to mount briefly, but couldn’t deliver any punishment as “The Ox” bucked and made his way back to his feet, though not for long. McGee closed out the frame by collecting another takedown, this time clutching a tight guillotine choke as the round came to a close.

McGee is now 2-0 since defeating Kris McCray to win Season 11 of the reality TV show.