Rory MacDonald vs. Jake Ellenberger – UFC on FOX 8 Statistical Analysis and Fight Pick

UFC on FOX 8 July 27, 2013 Welterweights: Rory MacDonald vs. Jake Ellenberger By Reed Kuhn, @Fightnomics Big Picture: In what I believe is the “people’s main event” on the UFC on FOX, Rory MacDonald and Jake Ellenberger are finally going to clash after exchanging Twitter hatred for weeks. The winner will position himself as at most one fight away from a title shot, while the loser will drop back down the ladder for welterweight gold. The welterweight division could use some fresh blood for future championship fights, so this fight between two guys with a lot of potential but no prior title shots is very important to the division in the long run. The current line has MacDonald as a -230 favorite, implying a ~70% win probability. Let’s look at their performance metrics to see how they stack up. Summary Stats:

MacDonald vs Ellenberger Stats

Tale of Tape Matchup: MacDonald will enter the cage a larger fighter. He’ll be taller, longer, and also younger – although both fighters are in their prime in terms of age. We saw how MacDonald was able to use a size advantage to his favor against BJ Penn, a fight where MacDonald dominating the smaller Penn for three straight rounds with a barrage of combinations. MacDonald probably won’t be able to do that to the same extent here, but at least the Tale of the Tape supports his case for physical advantages. Standup Game: In terms of standup striking, the highly touted MacDonald’s technical skills show up clearly on paper as well. He’s managed to outwork opponents, while maintaining very good striking accuracy and striking defense. However, despite a wrestling base, Ellenberger’s striking stats have also been very good. His accuracy and defense are well above average, and his knockdown power is among the highest in the division – higher even than the UFC heavyweight average. The one area he lags is in pace and cage control. Opponents have slightly outworked him, which is a weakness that MacDonald’s size and conditioning will likely try to exploit. So that appears to be the key divergence in this matchup: Ellenberger’s power versus MacDonald’s pace and technical control. Ground Game: While one would expect a wrestler of Ellenberger’s experience to have an edge on the ground, MacDonald stacks up fairly well. The two fighters have performed very closely in takedown offense (both in frequency and success rate), takedown defense, and ground control time. MacDonald has been slighter more active in his submissions, but not enough to differentiate. Perhaps it’s surprising that MacDonald shows up so strong on the stat line next to a collegiate wrestler like Ellenberger, but not when you remember who MacDonald trains with. Georges St-Pierre, though lacking the NCAA wrestling experience of opponents like Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, Matt Hughes and others, has organically become one of the most dominant ground and pounders in the UFC. And if MacDonald can hang with a guy like that, he’ll be a lot to handle should he gain top control against Ellenberger. Fight Prediction: Having met both fighters, I have to disclose some bias favoring Rory. It’s even more important since that’s who I’m picking to win. Having studied him before and attended his last fight in Seattle (I’ll be there again this week for this one), that’s a disclosure of bias that must be made. But looking at the numbers I do see evidence that MacDonald is a justified favorite here. His intelligent and relentless technical style of striking combined with his size and well-rounded grappling skills make him difficult for anyone to deal with. But the wild card is Ellenberger’s power. With a whopping 8 knockdowns to his credit in the UFC, his knockdown rate proves he can punch above his weight class. He also has the confidence to press forward and ensure he tests his opponent’s chin. But he’ll need to get inside MacDonald’s reach and beat his defense to use that power. And Ellenberger will have to do it early. Another superlative often cited for MacDonald is his conditioning, which is again no surprise given where he trains and who he trains with. As the fight goes on, MacDonald should pull away with pace and control. Reed’s Pick: MacDonald by Decision Reed’s Recommended Play: A straight play on MacDonald at -230 doesn’t present much value, except possibly in round robins. Ellenberger is a tough opponent, but not enough of an underdog to warrant the upset pick based on this line. If you’re willing to take a little more risk on MacDonald and expect the tough Ellenberger to last three rounds (which is reasonable), a +158 play on MacDonald by decision is probably the best bet. Anyone looking to hedge a bet on MacDonald should keep in mind that Ellenberger is most dangerous right out of the gates. His last three wins inside the distance came in Round 1, which in this fight would offer a +575 return. And it’s too early to know for sure, but there may also be a nice play on this one for Fight of the Night. It’s tough with a women’s fight and also a flyweight title fight also on the main card, but the intensity of MacDonald and Ellenberger and their close matchup means we have the ingredients for a bonus worthy showing. If that prop bet can be had for anything over +450, go for it.

Written by Reed Kuhn

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UFC on FOX 8 Opening Odds Breakdown: Welterweights Rory MacDonald vs. Jake Ellenberger

Free UFC on FOX 8 Picks: Rory MacDonald (-240) vs. Jake Ellenberger (+200)