Notable Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight fighters Darren Elkins and Lucas Martins scrapped last night (Sat. Oct. 25, 2014) at UFC 179 inside Maracanazinho Gymnasium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
On the strength of a five-fight win streak, Elkins was able to break into the Top 15 of the 145-pound division. Since then, his hold on the position has begun to slip, as he's been pushed down the ladder by Chad Mendes and Jeremy Stephens.
To remain ranked, it was vital that "Damage" pull off a victory.
Martins entered this bout on the come up. After a short notice loss to Edson Barboza, Martins experimented with different weight classes and found his home at Featherweight. During that time, he finished three straight opponents and earned a step up in competition.
The first round was a classic Elkins' performance. Despite being a lesser striker, the combination of constant takedown attempts and a high volume of strikes thrown allowed the wrestler to control the round. Still, Martins got his shots in, and Elkins' face bore the damage.
In addition, Elkins was unable to land takedowns consistently, forcing him to work his dirty boxing.
Martins had a bit more success in the second round. Though he was beginning to tire a bit, Martins did a better job staying at range and landing some shots. It was still a pretty close round, but a Martins head kick that skimmed Elkins' dome likely earned the Brazilian the round.
Undeterred, Elkins continued to pressure with takedown at the start of the third and ate a knee for his trouble. Off of the cage, Martins likely landed the better strikes, but Elkins controlled him against the fence. Every so often, the fight moved back into the center of the cage, only for Elkins to force it back to the cage.
In the end, the judges were split. All the rounds were quite similar, and one judge scored based on damage, giving it to Martins. Ultimately, the other two decided the Elkins' control was more valuable.
Despite getting the victory, Elkins absorbed a majority of the "Damage." His wrestling seems to have declined, as Elkins was never able to control his opponent from the top. Luckily his conditioning, high volume of punches and solid chin earned him the victory.
To be fair, Elkins' striking in the clinch did work rather well, and it's definitely an area he's been working on. That said, if his opponent was a bit more active with his clinch escape, he likely would have lost that fight.
It's not safe for Elkins to count on his opponent's weaknesses, as he really needs to improve his transitions from striking to wrestling.
For his next bout, I'd like to see Elkins face a fellow top wrestler such as Nik Lentz. That would likely force Elkins to work on his stand up, an area that definitely needs improvement.
Martins had all the tools necessary to win. His counter wrestling was solid and his range striking clean, but he simply didn't fight with the urgency necessary to defeat a grinding wrestler. There were times when Martins could've circled off the fence had he pushed himself, but it appeared that he did not have the gas tank to do so.
Luckily, Martins is young and has time to improve. For his next bout, he'll likely get another striker. A match up with fellow UFC 179 loser Felipe Arantes would likely be quite entertainment and an excellent bout for a Brazilian fight night.
At UFC 179, Darren Elkins was able to grind his way past another dangerous opponent. Can he duplicate that success at a higher level?
For complete UFC 179 "Aldo vs Mendes" results and play-by-play click HERE.