The Fight Horizon – Chad Mendes vs. Darren Elkins
Yet another Chad Mendes opponent has dropped out of a fight due to an injury, Clay Guida being the culprit this time around. Guida himself was a replacement for a rescheduled fight that originally matched up Mendes and Manny Gamburyan. MMA Junkie has reported that Darren Elkins will step in for Clay Guida, doing the UFC a solid by agreeing to fight Mendes in five weeks time at UFC on Fox 7.
The Matchup: Chad Mendes vs. Darren Elkins
Chad “Money” Mendes is a on a two fight win streak since getting up close and personal with Jose Aldo’s knee in Brazil. Although his last two fights have been against middle of the pack fighters, he did what was expected of him and finished both in impressive fashion – quickly and violently. He has been unlucky in terms of his opponents getting hurt (Guida was already serving as a replacement), so he needs an elite fighter to see where he really stands.
Darren Elkins punched his ticket to this fight with his stoppage of Antonio Carvalho (a controversial early stoppage, but in all likelihood a victory regardless) and his four consecutive victories before that. The time was right for Elkins to get a big step up in terms of competition. Not only did he get a top 10 guy, he also just got the UFC ranked #1 contender.
The Date: April 20, 2013 – UFC on FOX 7 in San Jose, CA
Weight Class: Featherweight
What led to it: Clay Guida pulled out with an injury, while Darren Elkins just knocked out Antonio Carvalho, then agreed to serve as a replacement to fight Mendes. Elkins will be the third replacement for Mendes, who was originally slated to face Manny Gamburyan, than Clay Guida.
Why it matters:
Mendes’ last two fights have been against, to put it frankly, subpar competition. He absolutely freight-trained Cody McKenzie and Yaotzin Meza, both of whom are solid fighters, but neither of whom is ranked in the top 10 across most boards. Gamburyan would have represented a step up from either of those guys and Clay Guida would easily have been his stiffest test since losing to Aldo. Now that Guida went down with an injury, Mendes gets to keep his spot on the card by fighting Darren Elkins. While Elkins is a very good and tough up-and-coming fighter, for Mendes, this is still a step down from the competition he should be facing. It’s an opportunity for him to stay active and sharp, and keep himself busy until a matchup against a contender presents itself. With that said, in no way whatsoever should Mendes overlook Elkins, who is a very dangerous fighter and more than capable of winning this fight.
This is a huge fight for Darren Elkins, easily the most important of his career thus far. If he wanted a big name and elite fighter, he got both in Chad Mendes, who will be by far the toughest opponent he has ever faced. Elkins has a golden opportunity to leapfrog a lot of the top guys in the featherweight division and at the very least, throw his name in the mix with them. Guys like Chan Sung Jung, Ricardo Lamas, Cub Swanson, Dustin Poirier, Dennis Siver, Frankie Edgar, Erik Koch – Elkins has an opportunity to skyrocket up the FW ladder with a victory here. An impressive finish would have to raise his status even more. But that’s easier said than done, especially considering the fact that he’s taking this fight on short notice. Elkins just fought last weekend, albeit a quick fight, and now he’ll be facing one of the best guys in the division in less than five weeks time. It’s a big risk to take, but the reward of winning may make it well worth it. It’s going to be a “welcome to the big time” moment for him, win, lose or draw.
Mendes isn’t at gatekeeper status by any means, but he’s serving as a gatekeeper in this fight. He doesn’t really improve his stock with a victory, while Elkins would definitely raise his with a “W”. Mendes may look to play it safe with a grind out victory over Elkins, and look for a bigger fight next. Then again, he may look to continue his streak of devastating finishes to make another case for a title shot (or title eliminator matchup). If Elkins makes it competitive, look for him to get some match-ups against more top ten guys.