Give Ellenberger the credit he's due


Hard to put into words how impressive Jake Ellenberger was Saturday. The UFC welterweight needed just 53 seconds to knock out veteran Jake Shields, becoming just the second man to do so in 11 years.

When looking to earn a shot at a UFC title, we've seen by now that all wins are not created equal. Fifteen-minute victories where little damage occurs often keep guys running in place. It's signature wins that move them up the ladder.

Saturday was signature for Ellenberger.

"I definitely could envision myself winning this fight, [but] not that quick," Ellenberger said. "It happened fast."

The win marks arguably the most impressive moment of Ellenberger's career -- a fact that should absolutely not be questioned simply due to the circumstances surrounding it.

It's no secret Shields was dealing with an enormous loss leading up to this weekend. Just three weeks before the bout, his father, Jack, passed away at the age of 67 in his sleep.

It took a lot of courage for Shields to go through with the fight, no doubt. But that shouldn't take away from the significance of Ellenberger's win. Shields felt confident in taking the fight. He should be viewed just as dangerous as ever.

"It doesn't matter to me," Ellenberger said, when asked if some might question whether Shields was 100 percent. "He took the fight. He stood in there, which I respect him for."

In the opening moments of the bout, Shields ducked under a right hand from Ellenberger (26-5) and tied him up in a takedown attempt.

Ellenberger ended up defending the move and staying on his feet, but said Shields certainly didn't feel like a man drained of his strength.

"He felt strong. I was actually surprised," Ellenberger said. "When he shot in, I was like, 'Oh man.' He felt strong for sure."

As much as Shields (26-6-1) deserves respect for walking to the Octagon, Ellenberger deserves equal credit for the result he posted.

Heading into the weekend, Ellenberger was ranked the No. 9 welterweight in the world by ESPN.com. Shields was No. 4. A one-minute finish of a top-5 170-pounder is the kind of signature win which could, and probably should, send Ellenberger to a five-round fight.

He is 5-1 since joining the UFC in 2009. The loss came via a controversial split decision to current No. 1 contender Carlos Condit in Ellenberger's UFC debut. The 26-year-old said he'd accept any opponent the promotion gives him next but feels it's clear now he matches up well against the elite.

"Carlos is an outstanding fighter and I think he deserves [a title shot]," Ellenberger said. "I think I match up well with Carlos and [champion] Georges St. Pierre. But whoever the UFC has for me, I'll fight. I'll work my way up to a title shot."

After Saturday's performance, there shouldn't be much more of a way to go.

Brett Okamoto covers MMA for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at bokamotoESPN.