UFC on Fox 8: Main Card Preview

Jake Ellenberger

Demetrious Johnson (17-2-1, 5-1-1 UFC) vs John Moraga (13-1, 2-0 UFC)

In the main event of the evening, Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson will face John Morga in a 125-pound championship tilt. Still in its infancy, the lightest male division in the UFC is naturally littered with lesser known, but in no way lesser talented, fighters.

In fact, with elite fighters like Joseph Benevides and Ian McCall the flyweight division is arguably one of the most talent-rich and competitive divisions in the UFC.

In his second title defense, Johnson takes on a guy who provides a different challenge than either of his last two fights, when he earned close decisions over McCall and John Dodson. While Moraga doesn't have either the punching power of Dodson or the speed of McCall, he is arguably a better wrestler than Johnson, since he competed at a higher level of competition at Arizona State. And, he is more than capable of landing a knockdown, as he has ample power.

That said, however, Johnson is an elite MMA wrestler and, unlike Moraga, has proven it against elite competition for years. Moreover, Johnson was knocked down twice in his fight against Dodson, only to recover quickly and outwork Dodson over the course of the final three rounds. 

Finally, Johnson has one of the most apropos nicknames in the UFC, as he is lightning quick and could very well be the speediest fighter in the UFC. He uses his speed and off-the-charts cardio to overwhelm his opponents; he constantly switches levels, expertly mixing up his striking with timely takedowns.

Despite having little experience at the highest levels of the sport, Moraga should present a stiff challenge to the champ. Still, Mighty Mouse should be able to wear Moraga down over the course of five rounds, effectively using his excellent footwork and technical striking to earn points and set up key take downs.

Johnson by unanimous decision (45-40)

Rory MacDonald (14-1, 6-0 UFC) vs Jake Ellenberger (29-6, 8-2)

Rory MacDonald has been having his tires pumped by so-called MMA experts for years. Even reigning Welterweight Champion George St. Pierre says it’s only a matter of time before he becomes a champion. Well, color me not impressed.

Is he a good wrestler? Sure. Is he a good technical striker? Sure. But who has he beaten? An old BJ Penn this past December and a poor take-down defender in Nate Diaz back at UFC 129 are his only two “quality wins” inside the octagon.

Sorry, but both of those match-ups were tailor-made for him to pick up easy wins and keep the MacDonald hype train on track. As evidenced by the brutal beating Penn took at the hands of Nick Diaz at UFC 137, as well as his paltry 1-1-4 record in his last 6 UFC fights, Penn has no business facing competent foes at this latter stage of his career. And, as far as Diaz goes, he provides little or no resistance to a fighter of MacDonald's wrestling pedigree.

Up to this point, MacDonald has only faced one opponent who offered him any kind of resistance – former interim champ, Carlos Condit – and the results were pretty damning.

After being taken down for the better part of two rounds, Condit began taking control of the octagon and swarming a young, green McDonald. The result was one of the most savage examples of ground and pound ever evidenced in the UFC.

It got so bad that the referee decided to ultimately stop a fight in which MacDonald was up two rounds to none with less than ten seconds remaining in the final round. MacDonald, a bloody mess, had been thoroughly beaten, both from a physical and mental standpoint – his will had been broken.

Now, fast forward to UFC on FOX 8, where McDonald faces welterweight contender Jake Ellenberger (29-6, 8-2) in what should be an outstanding Co-Main Event. At the age of 33, this is conceivably Ellenberger’s last attempt to make a run at the 170-pound title. This is the biggest fight of his career: if he beats MacDonald, he will most likely take on the winner of the GSP-Johnny Hendricks title fight, slated for this November at UFC 167.

Not only should Ellenberger be the more desperate fighter here, but he’s clearly the more dangerous one. Just ask touted opponent Jake Shields, who lasted all of 53 seconds during their UFC Fight Night main event encounter, as Ellenberger planted him with a knee and then finished him off with a barrage of punches. It was the first time Shields had ever been finished in his mixed martial arts career.

Carlos Condit is a very skilled opponent, but he does not possess the power in his right hand that Ellenberger does. Outside of Hendricks, Ellenberger has arguably the hardest hands in the division. And, considering Ellenberger was a two-time All-American wrestler at Nebraska, MacDonald will not be able to consistently use his wrestling to score take downs and set up his striking like he did versus Condit.

The one flaw in Ellenberger’s game has been his cardio. He tends to come out strong looking for the knockout, only to fade in the later rounds if he doesn’t get it.

A great example of this was in his unanimous decision win versus Diego Sanchez back in November of 2012. Ellenberger swarmed Sanchez early trying to score the knockout, but Sanchez was able to survive and even ended up winning the third round against a noticeably exhausted Ellenberger. Another example was his last loss, which came thanks to a come-from-behind KO from Martin Kampman.

I’m sure Ellenberger has been working on his cardio and plans on pacing himself better for this fight. However, I think he will eventually revert back to throwing punches in bunches at some point. He might not get the finish, but I think he will do enough damage in the first and second rounds to earn himself the decision.

Ellenberger in an upset (29-28)

Robbie Lawler (20-9, 5-3 UFC), Bobby Voelker (24-9, 0-1 UFC)

Coming off a loss in his UFC debut, you know Bobbie Voelker will be hungry for a win during a time when UFC roster cuts are seemingly happening on a regular basis. Voelker is a durable fighter with competent power striking and wrestling. It would not be shocking if he pulled off either a finish or earned himself a decision win here.

However, he has drawn arguably the best Robbie Lawler we've ever seen. Always known to have one of the best chins and power lefts in the business, Lawler showed in his last fight versus elite wrestler and welterweight contender Josh Koshcheck that he posseses incredible take-down defense as well.

If Voelker can't get Lawler down, it will be a short night for Voelker, who will most likely find it irresistible to get involved in a slug fest. And let's get serious: if a guy of Koscheck's wrestling prowess couldn't get Lawler down, what chance does Voelker have?

Lawler by 2nd-round knockout

Liz Carmouche (8-3,-0-1 UFC) vs. Jessica Andrade (9-2, 0-0 UFC)

The opening fight on the main card pairs off a couple of women in what Las Vegas considers the most lopsided fight of the evening. With only a select number of women currently on the UFC roster, matchmaker Joe Silva doesn't have a lot of options, meaning mismatches are bound to happen.

To make his job even tougher, Carmouche's originally scheduled opponent, Miesha Tate, was pulled from this fight in order to replace Cat Zignano (injured) and coach against Ronda Rousey in the Ultimate Fighter. Carmouche is a potential title contender, while Andrade is an up-and-comer.

To her credit, Andrade has finished eight of her last nine opponents via strikes. Carmouche will, therefore, need to be respectful of Andrade's striking ability, but short of getting repeatedly caught, Carmouch should be able to use her superior strength, cardio and wresting to wear out Andrade.

Carmouche by decision (30-27)

By: Erik Sprague

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