Darren Elkins (17-3) vs. Jeremy Stephens (22-9) Featherweight
When we last left our heroes...I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that not many people like Darren Elkins. Why? He's beaten too many fan favorites in bouts that could have at least been exciting. Michihiro Omigawa, Hatsu Hioki, Antonio Carvalho...oh I get it. He's the avatar of Shooto assassination. I get it Shooto fans. But it's time to move on.
He is 7-2 in the UFC, which is very very good when you look at his competition. Yet he doesn't get a lot of credit though that has clearly changed.
Stephens represents the sort of anti-Elkins. A fighter who everyone loved but then sort of sabotaged that affection with assault charges which prompted Dana White to Ocean's Eleven Jeremy's way out of jail.
Jeremy is coming off a rudimentary win over Esteven Payan, and an impressive win over TUF: Brazil winner Rony Jason via head kick KO.
This isn't the most marquee FW fight, but Elkins is a durable FW who represents what gatekeepers should be: skilled enough to tell us who deserves to part of the upper echelon in the division, and who doesn't.
What both men can do: I'll still always remember Stephens for his uppercut on Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 91. It was one of the first times I had ever watched a UFC with a large group of friends at once, and it got the biggest reaction from everyone in the room. Even my thoughts were drowned by all the collective "ooooooh"s and "hoooooly shiiiit!"s.
It encapsulates well what Jeremy is capable of. 15 of his 22 wins are by TKO/KO. He has an evil right hand that is both quick, and just plain monstrous. As he proved against Jason, his arsenal is anything but one note. He's also better on the ground than he's given credit for. He went a full three rounds on top of Anthony Pettis without getting submitted. That has to count for something right?
Elkins is all about getting the takedown and working top control like a champ. What makes Elkins so effective is his ability to get low during a takedown. Most wrestlers feel like they have to throw a perfunctory one-two before wrapping their arms around their opponent's legs for a double. Elkins says "why wait? it's not like anyone prepares for the early desperate takedown anymore" and goes practically for the feet.
It doesn't always look graceful, but grace disappears in the fog of efficiency in this sport.
What both men can't do: However, there's just one small problem with Elkins... he's still a bit of desperation puncher; the kind of fighter who admits to himself he's not great on the feet, and fights to avoid a sustained attack. He's cleaned up his boxing over the years. He proved that against Carvalho, despite the controversy surrouding the stoppage.
He has solid raw power in his right hand, but he won't be testing that power against Stephens.
It's a tough fight to pick. Elkins has the ability to keep Stephens on the ground where he has some solid ground and pound and can create offense in his own way. But Stephens can end the bout with one mortal kombat uppercut.
I'll go with (in what feels like a coin toss) Stephens. I feel like he's the Melvin Guillard of the FW division and this is his Shane Roller matchup.
With Stephens getting acclimated to the weight class, and Dana White making sure his extracurricular activities are bought and paid for, he should be comfortable enough in the ring to take out a very game and durable Elkins who just won't be able to handle Jeremy's raw power.
X-Factor: None I foresee. The only controversy would be
In-Fight Soundtrack: Broken Bells?