The main card of UFC on Fox tonight kicked off in the featherweight division, as noted brawler Jeremy Stephens took on veteran grinder and top-10 featherweight Darren Elkins. It was a midwest battle that took native Iowan Stephens and planted him opposite the cage of Indiana's own Elkins.
The fight saw Stephens dominate the standup with power punches and good takedown defense. He mauled Elkins on the feet, eventually taking a decision over the top-10 ranked Elkins.
So, what did we learn from this important featherweight tilt? Let's take a look.
What We'll Remember About This Fight
We will remember this as the fight Elkins couldn't get down. Many speculated Elkins would be able to take Stephens down on command, but he struggled to get him down all night. Maybe because Stephens threw some nasty leg kicks that slowed him down.
Stephens' takedown defense was statistically not great coming into this fight, but he showed he could stave off Elkins tonight.
What We Learned About Stephens
He has improved his takedown defense and he made the right call dropping to 145. He is now 3-0 in the division, including a one-sided beating of Estevan Payan, a brutal knockout of Rony Jason and a beating of Darren Elkins.
If he has truly tightened up his takedown defense, he could be a threat at 145 pounds. We will see going forward if he is truly a top-10 featherweight.
What We Learned About Elkins
His striking hasn't improved as much as we thought. We were impressed with Elkins when he finished Antonio Carvalho on the feet not long ago, but as seen against Stephens, he still has a ways to go.
Wrestling is his bread and butter, but he couldn't get Stephens down. That was why he wasn't able to get much going against the brutish Stephens.
What's Next for Stephens?
Stephens has to be considered top 10 after beating a guy who was in the top 10. Therefore, he should get a top opponent.
Give him Dustin Poirier in his next bout. That fight would produce fireworks and push one man closer to the title picture.
What's Next for Elkins?
Elkins is now 6-2 as a UFC featherweight, nothing to be ashamed of. However, he needs to get back to the drawing board.
He is now outside the top 10 and needs a solid rebound fight. A guy who could give him a good challenge would be Nik Lentz, a man in a similar spot with a similar fighting style.