Known for his remarkable comebacks, Darren Elkins did it again at UFC Fight Night 124 on Sunday night in St. Louis, coming from behind to take out Michael Johnson.
Elkins and Johnson entered this fight at opposite ends of the spectrum. Johnson had lost four of his last five fights at lightweight, so made the move down to featherweight. Elkins, meanwhile, was on a five-fight winning streak and ranked No. 10 in the UFC 145-pound division, a rather rude welcoming committee.
Records may not tell the full tale, however, as Johnson has always put on exciting fights, and showed how good he is early on in the fight with Elkins.
Johnson was sharp out of the gate, lighting Elkins up with punch combinations. Elkins quickly started looking for a takedown, but Johnson was on-point, stuffing every takedown Elkins attempted in the opening round.
Each time that Elkins would shoot, Johnson would stuff it and land punch combinations, frequently combined with low leg kicks that would buckle Elkins.
Johnson’s straight left was particularly damaging, staggering Elkins on several occasions and bloodying his nose.
Elkins fired back, but his one-off punches didn’t carry the same weight as Johnson’s combinations that were accompanied by superior speed and timing.
Johnson started quick again in the second frame, landing a left hook, but Elkins finally found his timing and secured the takedown that had eluded him in round one.
Elkins immediately posted up from top position in Johnson’s half guard, dropping hammerfists, punches, and elbows on his head. Just when it looked that Elkins might keep Johnson on his back for the duration of the round, the former lightweight scrambled out from under him.
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He wouldn’t escape Elkins’ clutches, though, as Elkins found his way to Johnson’s back during the scramble. He locked on a body triangle, accompanied by a rear-naked choke. Johnson tried for a time to defend, but it was too deep and he tapped out at 2:22 of the second round.
“I get in there, they start throwing punches. Guys like Michael Johnson, they don’t throw fake punches, they knock people out usually. But I take ‘em; I take ‘em well. And when I’m still in your face after I take them it really breaks you,” Elkins said after the fight.
“That rear-naked choke, I was setting that up all fight camp.”
The victory moved Elkins to six consecutive victories, edging him one step closer to UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway, who is currently slated to face Frankie Edgar in the UFC 222 main event in March in Las Vegas.
Elkins certainly has his sights on the UFC championship, but knows he’ll likely need to take another fight before that happens.
“I want the No. 1 contender. I think that’s realistic. I got six (consecutive victories). The only one that had more wins than me, a better win streak than me, is Max Holloway himself. I want the fight that’s going to get me to the title.”
Having suffered back-to-back losses to Holloway, former champ Jose Aldo currently sits at No. 1 in the UFC featherweight division.