Fantasy Fights

Intelligent, unique MMA analysis

UFC 167 Prediction: Brian Ebersole vs. Rick Story

Ebersole-Story

After a 16-month absence, Brian Ebersole has returned to the UFC and I’m happy to see him back. Ebersole is a fighter who lacks the raw athleticism a lot of fighters have and makes up for it with a very smart fighting style. He uses his wrestling base to keep his opponents off balance and hits them with a number of surprise attacks (although the cartwheel kick has yet to find success). Ebersole is also excellent at shielding himself from taking too much punishment – in 79 UFC minutes Ebersole has only been hit by 117 significant strikes.

As much as I like Ebersole I hate this match-up for him. I have to question the UFC matchmaking on this one. Ebersole is out for nearly a year and a half and his comeback opponent is Rick Story?

To be fair I think I rate Story more highly than almost anybody else. Story is an underachiever as far as I’m concerned – a very tough wrestler with very effective striking, yet he finds ways to lose to opponents like Charlie Brenneman and Mike Pyle. Story also seems to have a knack for losing decisions I think he deserves to win. Against Brenneman, Pyle, and Martin Kampmann, I had the fight scored in Story’s favor… but the judges did not.

Make no mistake about it, Story is a very good fighter and extremely difficult to beat when he’s at his best. It’s no accident that Story is the only fighter to ever defeat Johny Hendricks. With the forward pressure Story applies and the constant threat of a takedown, Story has landed 1.9 significant strikes for every one he’s absorbed. He’s also never been knocked down in the UFC while he’s landed three knockdowns himself.

There are a couple holes in Story’s game that leave an opening for Ebersole to potentially score an upset here. One is that Story’s takedown defense is a lot worse than his takedown offense. Story has been taken down 25 times – this is largely a result of fighting tough wrestlers like Hendricks and Brenneman, but it indicates that Ebersole may be able to take Story down as well.

The other is that Story doesn’t have a very sharp submission game. He’s had 13 submissions attempted against him and had his guard passed 16 times.

The path to victory for Ebersole appears to be: focus on defense standing while looking for an opening to take Story down, then focus on control while looking for a submission. It might not sound like an exciting fight but that’s Ebersole’s best bet here.

What’s more likely is that Story’s pressure is too much for Ebersole to handle. Story lands 3.24 takedowns per 15 minutes at 52 percent accuracy; Ebersole’s takedown defense is pretty good but it will have to be top-notch for him to stay off his back in this fight. Ultimately, Story is the better athlete and more punishing fighter and that will likely be enough for him to defeat Ebersole.

Pick: Rick Story by decision

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