Unless you’re one of those Bud Light ‘Battle on the Bayou’ contest winners, you’re probably not overly excited about Saturday’s “Shields vs. Ellenberger” UFC event on Spike. Boxing already has Saturday night locked up, with Floyd Mayweather‘s ring-return against 24-year-old WBC Welterweight champ Victor Ortiz, and it feels like UFC Fight Night 25 will be an overlooked prelude to next week’s Jones vs. Rampage card.
But let’s not admit defeat so soon. We’ll be liveblogging the Shields vs. Ellenberger main card on CagePotato.com starting at 9 p.m. ET, and it would be nice if a few of you showed up to keep us company. Could it be one of those “crap on paper, bonkers in reality” events? Who knows, but consider the following…
All Eyes on Jake: So far, Jake Shields‘s UFC career has consisted of an underwhelming (and razor-thin) split-decision victory over Martin Kampmann, and a rout at the hands of Georges St. Pierre. His dominant stretch of eight-straight stoppage victories in 2006-2009 are a distant memory in the minds of MMA fans, and he needs a dramatic win here, badly. Shields’s dance partner, Jake Ellenberger, has been spent years fighting for recognition, and with four straight Octagon wins over serious competition, he’s starting to get it. Stylistically, the fight might not be a barn-burner, but it could have career-altering implications for the headliners.
TUF Winners Return: Due to poorly-timed injuries, Court McGee and Jonathan Brookins — the winners of TUF 11 and TUF 12, respectively — haven’t competed since last year. Nevertheless, McGee is still a solid favorite over Dongi Yang, the South Korean fight-finisher who has split a pair of Octagon appearances, most recently TKO’ing Rob Kimmons in March. I’m much more concerned for Brookins, whose first post-TUF bout will be against Erik Koch, the Roufusport-trained killer who has won Knockout of the Night bonuses in his last two fights. My money’s on Koch here, especially considering the way Brookins was gobbling punches against Michael Johnson — and I’d also call this bout an early front-runner for Fight of the Night.
The Crowd-Pleaser: The UFC knew what they were doing in booking middleweights Alan Belcher and Jason MacDonald to kick off the main card. Both guys go for broke in every fight, and have eight combined performance bonuses to show for it. With back-to-back stoppage wins over Wilson Gouveia and Patrick Cote in his pocket, Belcher returns to the cage after the eye-ailment that nearly ended his career. And speaking of miraculous comebacks, MacDonald is coming off his first-round submission win against Ryan Jensen, which followed his gnarly leg-snap against John Salter.
Do or Die for Dunham: Once an undefeated blue-chip prospect in the lightweight division, Evan Dunham now has his back against the wall following two straight losses — one a bullshit decision against Sean Sherk, the other an ugly TKO against Melvin Guillard. His next opponent, Strikeforce/TUF 13 veteran Shamar Bailey, is a hefty underdog, but he’s got the wrestling skills and power to make it a contest. Can Dunham get his head back in the game and take care of business? Because if he doesn’t, he’ll very likely be out of a job.
Don’t Sleep On the Prelims: The entire “Shields vs. Ellenberger” preliminary card will be streamed on Facebook.com/UFC, and Dunham vs. Bailey isn’t the only match to keep an eye on. Following his Fight of the Night-worthy loss to Yves Edwards in January, Cody McKenzie — and his dreaded “McKenzietine” choke — will return against Vagner Rocha. Plus, Saturday night will kick off with the debut of Jorge Lopez, a 22-year-old welterweight who took a break from high-school at the age of 14 to train with Wanderlei Silva — which sounds a hell of a lot cooler than what I was doing at 14.