Johny Hendricks is easy to like: a world class wrestler who likes to bang. This is an explosive matchup. Full credit to Joe Silva for making this clash happen and for both fighters for accepting it. These two welterweight stars can end anyone's night with one punch. Both have excellent full-on styles and look to finish fights with their superhuman punching power.
"Big Rig" has been making news with his vociferous dissent from being passed over for the title shot for perennial contender, Nick Diaz. Truthfully, Hendricks needs this one more win to solidify his number one contender position. Hendricks is amazingly exciting and is on a five-fight win streak over the division's best, but a caveat: two of the five wins were via split decision. The other three are wild K.O. finishes that deserve to be on any highlight reel and have stricken fear into his contemporaries.
Mike Pierce and Josh Koscheck could have easily been awarded those split decision wins that went the way of the 2005 and 2006 NCAA wrestling champion. A win over the dangerous Ellenberger would make Hendricks the definitive number one contender. Possessing a clear advantage in wrestling and grappling will give him an edge, but his biggest asset is Jake's penchant for gassing.
Ellenberger has proven that he is unstoppable in the first round. His ten career first-round knockouts speak to that. The winner of seven of his last eight contests, he is truly a top contender. His pressure is unrelenting for the first few minutes. That lone loss came after he spent himself while smashing the filling out of Martin Kampmann. He intelligently paced himself in his rebound win against crafty veteran Jay Hieron in October. That is the game plan that he needs to follow to compete with Hendricks.
Both have big K.O. wins over top fighters. Johny's hit list includes Kampmann, Fitch, Brenneman and Sadallah. Jake's resume boasts knockouts over Shields, Pierson, Pyle, Zach Light and "Pele". The contest itself will prove who the better power-puncher is. What is not ambiguous is the fact that this is the contest to determine the next defense for Georges St-Pierre.
Interestingly, both have decision losses to Rick Story—whom Demian Maia recently manhandled. Regardless, this is the best non-title fight at welterweight and proves that GSP has unfinished business in the division to address before moving up.
The Juggernaut is 11-2 over the past 13 fights. He is a beast in the division. A close split decision loss to Carlos Condit was a watershed moment in his life that probably cost him a title shot. Being a few more blows from finishing Kampmann must also have been a bitter pill to swallow. Come March, he will have his chance for redemption. A hungry Hendricks will not make it easy.
On a side note, for those who feel that Diaz does not deserve the fight over the wrestling star, the point is moot because the fight is happening. Nick was in line to fight GSP at UFC 137, but lost it for non-fight reasons and then destroyed BJ Penn. Instead of waiting for GSP, he took on the dangerous Condit. He should be rewarded for bucking the waiting trend and not punished.
Who won, Condit or Diaz, is a debate for another article. What cannot be debated is that Nick has proven himself worthy of a title shot for a much longer time that Johny.
At 14-1 and with massive wins over Kampmann and Fitch, Hendricks has arrived on the welterweight scene with fanfare. At 28-6, Ellenberger has proven he can take out the best in the business. There is no doubt that this is the categorical showdown to determine the number one contender.
The only potential wrench to ruin a class affair would be Jake Ellenberger, who comes prepared to fight only one round. It behooves one to consider that he has never had a third round knockout in his career and only one of his UFC knockouts came past the first stanza.
On the 16th of March in 2013 at UFC 158 in Montreal, these two will square off. This is how the Oklahoma State Cowboy should present his case for a title shot—in the Octagon with a legit killer. The Chael Sonnen routine does the affable and dynamic star a disservice. At the end of the night his title dream will be answered, either with: "Go Johny, go!" or "Johny, We're Sorry."