Elkins quickly established himself as the quicker, busier fighter, taking the fight to Stephens as they moved around the cage. Stephens didn’t take the bait, though, and continued to show himself to be a more composed fighter than he had been earlier in his career.
While Elkins was quicker, moving in and out on Stephens, it was Stephens that landed with greater accuracy and heavier shots, doing much more damage as the fight wore on.
By the final round, Elkins’ face was trickled with blood, but Stephens had nary a mark on him.
As the final stanza plodded out like the first two rounds, Elkins darting in and out, but slowing, Stephens continued landing the harder shots and started stalking Elkins.
Stephens appeared to slip late in the round, but ate a punch from Elkins as he returned to his feet, and immediately began backing up. Elkins, sensing his chance to take back the fight, moved in for a guillotine choke, got Stephens to the mat and took top position, but couldn’t cinch it up before the final horn.
The Illinois judges scored the fight 29-28, 30-27, and 30-27, all in favor of Jeremy Stephens, who has rekindled his career since dropping down to the featherweight division. He has now won three out of three bouts at 145 pounds, and on Saturday night took that next step up the ladder towards a title shot.
“I felt like I made a good statement tonight,” Stephens said after the fight. “It was a good test for me. He is a grinder.
“I feel like I stepped up and made a big statement and hope that it set me up to fight one of the Top 10 guys in the division.”
(Follow @KenPishna on Twitter)