DARREN ELKINS VS. JEREMY STEPHENS
FOX analyst and former UFC middleweight contender “All American” Brian Stann gave MMAWeekly.com his breakdown of the UFC on Fox 10 main card fights, and we're kicking things off with Darren Elkins vs. Jeremy Stephens. Both men are former lightweights that have found recent success by moving down to the featherweight class, where they will meet on Saturday night in Chicago.
Elkins (17-3) is coming off of a victory over Hatsu Hioki, his rebound effort after having a run at title contention stopped short by Chad Mendes, while Stephens (22-9) is undefeated in his two featherweight outings, besting Estevan Payan and Rony Jason.
The All-American Elkins vs. Stephens Breakdown
This is probably the toughest fight to pick on the main card because both guys have shown their areas where they can win this fight.
I think [featherweight] has really been a better weight class [than lightweight] for Jeremy Stephens. If you're a guy who likes to stand and trade, it's always best to be in the weight class where you can be a bigger, stronger, harder-to-control individual. Sort of like my reasoning for dropping from 205 [pounds] down to 185.
On paper, I tend to favor Elkins because of his top control; his suffocating grind-em-out type of style. And with the way Stephens normally approaches his fights so aggressively, even though he's got a good wrestling background, he leaves himself susceptible to takedowns when he tries to throw those really heavy, heavy shots.
Now, we've seen some improvements to [Stephens'] game. We've seen some kicks now, we've seen more combinations, he's not just headhunting, so that's what really makes this interesting. If he can continue to improve the way he has recently, he can show a side of him that can beat the Kryptonite. Everybody thinks in fighting Jeremy Stephens let me stay at range or just take him down and control. If he can get past Elkins and stuff some takedowns or work back to his feet and show more controlled aggression out there, it could be a great night for Jeremy Stephens.
How close is either man to a title shot?
Featherweight is one of the most exciting divisions in the UFC right now. It's crazy the amount of contenders. When you're talking a division that Frankie Edgar is in the Top 5 of guys that could be a champion… Frankie was one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world just a couple of years ago, and he's an incredible fighter, that's how talented this division is.
[Stephens] has got to put on some very impressive performances. He's got to continue to improve every aspect of his game to get himself into that mix.
It's even more so than just getting a little bit better [at his striking for Elkins]. In today's UFC, with today's athletes, you have got to have an X factor in your game. You've got to have an ability to not only be good everywhere – you've got to be well rounded – you've got to have the ability somewhere to end the fight on a moment's notice. If you look at all the guys in the top of that specific division; Cub Swanson, Frankie Edgar, Chad Mendes, Ricardo Lamas, Jose Aldo, all those guys have that ability. They've got that “wow” factor. Darren has got to develop that and develop it quickly.