Jeremy Stephens has seen a move to the featherweight division pay immediate dividends, and he will be looking to move towards top-10 territory if he can defeat Darren Elkins at UFC on FOX 10 this weekend. Stephens has recorded back-to-back victories since making the transition to the 145-pound weight class, and most recently turned in a spectacular performance at Fight Night 32 when he decimated Rony Jason with a head kick just 40 seconds into their fight.
Stephens has the reputation for being a very dangerous striker with 15 career knockouts, and has earned multiple Knockout of the Night bonuses with the organization. He will no doubt be looking to make a statement in Chicago against the no. 10-ranked Elkins.
For his part, Elkins is looking to build off of the momentum of a decision victory over Hatsu Hioki in his last Octagon appearance. It was a much needed bounce-back effort after he was blitzed by Chad Mendes in the first round in his previous fight. Elkins has a strong wrestling background that he will need to utilize against the dangerous Stephens. A grinding style of fight would be more to his advantage than a stand-up slugfest.
“Lil’ Heathen” has faced very strong opposition during his days as a lightweight, including a split-decision loss to current champion Anthony Pettis at UFC 136. He’s a veteran of 17 fights inside the Octagon, and the decision to drop to the featherweight ranks after suffering three straight losses is looking like a very solid career move. Stephens realizes that a victory over “The Damage” would likely get him another top-10 opponent moving forward, and would mark his first three-fight win streak in the UFC.
While Elkins has compiled an impressive 7-2 record inside the Octagon and has won six of his last seven fights, he doesn’t seem to get mentioned much when it comes to potential title challengers. He will get a chance to state his case and continue his climb in the featherweight ranks with another win. It would be one of the more high-profile victories of his career if he can get the job done against the explosive Stephens.
It’s a fight that definitely has ramifications in the upper tier of the featherweight division and with so much at stake for both competitors, this promises to be an exciting way to open up Saturday’s main card.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports