Dana White: 2014's going to be a good year for Jeremy Stephens

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

UFC president Dana White had nothing but kind words for Jeremy Stephens following Stephens' unanimous decision win over Darren Elkins at UFC on Fox 10

Jeremy Stephens broke into the top ten of the UFC's featherweight division with his January 25 win over Darren Elkins at UFC on Fox 10. The win, a unanimous decision, gave Stephens his third straight victory. In addition, his performance caught the attention of UFC president Dana White.

White, speaking to Karyn Bryant, said, "Jeremy Stephens looked phenomenal that night."

More specifically White pointed out that Stephens did exceptionally well in the one area that many felt Elkins would have a pronounced advantage, "Jeremy Stephens stuffed everyone of his takedowns," White said. "Jeremy Stephens hits like a truck, kicks like a truck, and uh oh, now he can defend takedowns. He's a dangerous guy, and I think 2014's going to be a good year for him."

The Fightmetric stats show that Elkins attempted nine takedowns over the course of the fight, all of which were thwarted by Stephens. Stephens also did a solid job in his striking defense with Elkins making contact on only 15 percent of his significant strikes. That number is far below the 33 percent and 48 percent Elkins landed in his previous two fights that went the three round distance.

On his performance, Stephens, in an interview on UFC Fight Pass, said, "I feel like I made a good statement tonight. Tonight was a good test for me against a tough wrestler, a grinder, in Darren Elkins. I feel like I stepped up, and I'm cracking into the top ten. "

Stephens' successful run in 2013 and early 2014 follows a tumultuous 2011-12. The fighter was arrested on the morning of his scheduled UFC on FX 5 fight against Yves Edwards. The arrest, on felony assault charges stemmed from an October 15, 2011 incident in which Stephens and a friend allegedly assaulted another man outside a Des Moines sports bar.

Despite UFC president Dana White's best efforts to get Stephens released in time for the fight, Stephens remained in custody and the fight with Edwards was scrapped from the card.

When the two met in a rebooked matchup in December 2012, Edwards stopped Stephens via TKO at the 1:55 mark of the first round. The loss was Stephens' third straight defeat and prompted his drop to featherweight where he is unbeaten in three straight.

The felony charges from the Des Moines incident were dropped on the first day of Stephens' trial. Stephens offered a guilty plea to one count of misdemeanor disorderly conduct.

With the losses and court case behind him, the No. 10 ranked Stephens is looking to capitalize on the momentum he has established at 145-pounds, "I'm looking to get back in there and keep the ball rolling," Stephens said. "I'm looking to take on one of the top five guys in the division or another top ten. Bring ‘em on, I'm ready to rock and roll."

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