There’s a feeling with fighters like Rick Story who silently go about amassing wins before calling out a standard in the industry to prove their place.
Rick Story had the feeling ahead of his fight with former No. 1 contender Thiago Alves at UFC 130: he called for the Alves fight on Sherdog radio a couple of months back, saying, “I know that somebody like Thiago Alves, beating him, it would make people realize ‘this guy’s for real.’”
Guess what? This guy is for real. Like a self-fulfilled prophecy.
With a mix of suffocating wrestling and effective striking, he took Alves out of his game plan early and then made him fight from the purgatory against the cage for the bulk of three rounds. The burden was on Alves from the opening bell -- something seasoned wrestlers like Matt Hughes and Josh Koscheck couldn’t do.
So where does a win over a perennial No. 3 put Story?
There are plenty of options, but in my mind it’s against the other guy who is quietly sneaking up on the top-10 in the division who is a pedigree wrestler on the verge of becoming a fixture in the top 10 -- Jake Ellenberger.
Besides, it would be a rematch to their 2008 fight at SportFight 23, where Story won a unanimous decision. How’s that for back story?
Ellenberger is on a four-fight win streak and looking for a step up in competition after he recovers from surgery to a broken left hand. He said yesterday that he felt he was about two to three weeks out from sparring. He has name-dropped everyone from Jake Shields to Jon Fitch to Josh Koscheck as guys he’d like to see. It’s not audacity -- he just wants to take his place in the 170-pound division.
Yet when asked if he’d like a fight with Story, he told ESPN.com, “I hope it happens, and I pray for that rematch. I didn’t know how to wrestle when I fought him and was not in shape.”
The fight makes sense. Ellenberger wants somebody in the top 10.
And after UFC 130, that’s exactly where Rick Story finds himself.