LAS VEGAS -- It was easy to hear Martin Kampmann’s victory yell inside The Pearl at The Palms on Friday. The rest of the arena was pretty much stunned into silence.
Kampmann (20-5) overcame a brutal start en route to a second-round TKO victory over Jake Ellenberger in the main event of “The Ultimate Fighter Live Finale.”
The win most likely moves him into a No. 1 contender fight against Johny Hendricks, although that is unconfirmed by the UFC. Current champion Georges St. Pierre is expected to face interim champ Carlos Condit this fall, possibly in November.
Ellenberger (27-6) dropped Kampmann in the first minute with a flurry of punches, then bloodied his nose with a combination in the next round. Kampmann, who extended his win streak to three, somehow survived both.
“I got hit more than I wanted. I’m glad I came back and got the win,” Kampmann told ESPN.com. “He was stuck in my guard for awhile [in the first round.] I was able to get my composure back. Second round, I felt good.”
It almost appeared as if Kampmann’s resiliency had something to do with the finish. After failing to end the fight early with those two flurries, Ellenberger’s morale might have dipped. Kampmann caught him in the center of the cage during an exchange that sent the action towards the fence. The Las Vegas-based fighter followed it with a hard knee from the clinch that led to the decisive finish.
It’s the second time this year Kampmann has rallied for a come-from-behind finish. In February, he submitted Thiago Alves in the final minute of a contest he was well behind on the scorecards.
After the fight, he admitted getting down early in a fight isn’t the way he’d like to script things but he’s proven beyond a doubt you can never count him out.
“I’ve got to work on it,” Kampmann said. “Maybe have [coach] Ray Sefo punch me in the back more than he already does. Jake is a beast. He definitely throws a punch.
“You can never count me out. I don’t want you to stop the fight. I’m always going to be there, fighting until the end. Don’t stop the fight if I’m the one hurt.”
Some questioned referee Steve Mazzagatti’s decision to allow the fight to continue in the first round, and then his call to step in after the hard knee from Kampmann. It was a tough one to question though, as Ellenberger took time to recover in the cage after the action stopped.
“That’s up to the referee; it’s his discretion,” Ellenberger said. “I felt I could have kept fighting possibly -- give me a chance to recover. It is what is. It’s Martin’s night.”
Kampmann has been close to a title shot before, having fought two No. 1 contender fights previously. He fell to Paul Daley in the first round in this same situation at UFC 103 and again via decision to Jake Shields at UFC 121.
If that is where he finds himself following Friday, Kampmann says he’s undaunted at the thought of approaching the challenge a third time.
As he’s learned in six years with the UFC, nothing is ever guaranteed. A fight is a fight.
“There were a lot of people saying that about this fight,” Kampmann said. “You don’t know you have the title shot until the bout agreement is signed. I try not to look ahead.”