If Jake Ellenberger isn't fighting for some sort of UFC welterweight title by the end of 2012 he can only blame himself.
The 26-year-old has put himself in prime position and can lock up a title fight if he posts something impressive next week against Diego Sanchez at UFC on FUEL in Omaha, NE.
At minus-350, Ellenberger is a huge favorite against the veteran fighter. He thinks he'll win but Ellenberger respects what Sanchez has done.
"I'm going to expect the best Diego Sanchez. He's going to come after me. He's going to move froward like he always does," Ellenberger told "The MMA Insiders" on ESPN1100/98.9 FM. "He trains with a great camp, a great strategist. I'm preparing for the best Diego yet."
Sanchez is back working with Greg Jackson and Jackson's MMA. That's a good thing. But the recent wars and beatings Sanchez (23-4, 12.4 UFC) has put his body through probably isn't.
"He's somewhat predictable. He moves forward. I think I can definitely win the transitions and win in the striking area," said Ellenberger.
Ellenberger's game is perfectly suited to challenge the two UFC welterweight champions. That's ESPN's MMA expert Adam Hill named him the top prospect at 170 pounds (parameters include - Have not held a UFC belt in the weight class; have not previously fought for a title in the weight class).
Carlos Condit and Ellenberger met in Sept. of 2009. The current UFC interim welterweight champ took a narrow split decision from Ellenberger. At the time, some may have thought it was a fluke. Not the case since Ellenberger has reeled off five straight victories including four KO finishes. I'd put Rory MacDonald and Johny Hendricks ahead of Ellenberger on the 170 list, but it's obvious the ranks of challengers for both UFC titles is growing each month.
Adam Hill Top 10 welterweight prospects:
1. Jake Ellenberger
2. Rory MacDonald
3. Johny Hendricks
4. Erick Silva
5. Tyron Woodley
6. Ben Askren
7. Martin Kampmann
8. Douglas Lima
9. Jordan Mein
10. Siyar Bahadurzada