CHICAGO – Jeremy Stephens saw one way for Darren Elkins to beat him on Saturday night, and he believes it was the way a lot of other people analyzed the fight, as well.
So he just made sure Elkins couldn’t take him down and cruised to a unanimous decision win to open the main card of UFC on FOX 10 at United Center in Chicago.
Stephens (23-9 MMA, 10-8 UFC) stuffed all nine of the takedown attempts from Elkins (17-4 MMA, 7-3 UFC), a former state champion wrestler from nearby Northwest Indiana, and landed one of his own, almost as a perfect statement.
“Darren Elkins is a tough guy, and I knew he was just going to be taking me down, trying to do that aspect,” Stephens said at the post-event news conference. “It was a real test for me tonight. I think a lot of people in the media probably saw this guy taking me down and doing all that, so we shut them up. We stopped him, and we did our thing.”
The win kept Stephens perfect at 3-0 since dropping down to featherweight from lightweight following a rough 0-3 stretch that saw him drop a split decision to current 155-pound champion Anthony Pettis, a decision to Donald Cerrone and get knocked out by Yves Edwards.
But the move to featherweight has been nothing but success from the get-go, and against increasingly tough opponents. He opened his 145-pound career with a decision win over Estevan Payan this past April. In November, he went into hostile territory in Brazil and knocked out Rony Jason with a head kick in 40 seconds. But Elkins was his first win over a top 10 opponent.
“Darren Elkins is top 10, and I think since I got the win tonight it puts me right there in the top 10,” Stephens said. “I feel great at 145 pounds. I’m just getting better every day and just really enjoying it.”
Stephens was an Honorable Mention in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie.com MMA featherweight rankings heading into the fight against No. 9 Elkins, but certainly should be able to climb into the Top 15 with the win.
Stephens, an Iowa native who trains at San Diego’s Alliance MMA, said heading into the fight that he didn’t look much at what Elkins could do in the fight as much as he looked at what he would be able to do. He reiterated that Saturday night – stuffing all of Elkins’ takedown attempts might be a statement that he knew those would be coming and could move right on to what he’d be able to do after stopping them.
“I don’t want to focus too much on my opponent and what they’re trying to do,” Stephens said. “I just focus on me and what I can do and what I’m capable of. I know I can knock anybody out with one punch in pretty much any weight class. I’m very confident at 145 pounds. I feel great, and I feel my athleticism is really carrying me through.”
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