MONTREAL | It may not have come without a little bit of controversy, but Darren Elkins certainly won't turn it away.
Elkins on Saturday stopped Antonio Carvalho with a first-round TKO on the preliminary card of UFC 158 at Bell Centre in Montreal.
It was a finish Elkins was hoping for after four consecutive unanimous decision victories since dropping from lightweight to featherweight. And it's a finish he got, though the quick buzz on social media was the question of whether the fight was stopped too soon.
Elkins, a state champion wrestler at Portage, looked for an early takedown against the Canadian, but couldn't get the fight to the ground, but that wasn't a problem for him. A straight right hand landed flush on Carvalho's chin and stunned him, and Elkins quickly moved in and landed another right that had Carvalho on the canvas.
Just as Elkins rushed in to land more damage to finish the fight, referee Yves Lavigne grabbed him and waved the fight off, believing Carvalho was knocked out from the punch that dropped him and saving him from unnecessary strikes. No sooner had Lavigne grabbed Elkins to signal his victory than Carvalho popped back to his feet.
"He was hurt for sure, but after I dropped him he popped back up and I don't think the referee put himself in the position to see that," Elkins said. "I feel bad for him, but of course, I'm going to say that I would have stopped him anyway."
Elkins (16-2, 6-1 UFC) was in perfect position to deliver more punishment, befitting of his "Damage" nickname. As Carvalho (15-5, 2-1 UFC) returned to his feet, Elkins would have been facing him, right in his wheelhouse and completely defensive.
In some situations like that, a fighter will immediately protest the stoppage, always to no avail once the decision has been made. With Carvalho, that wasn't the case.
"I don’t blame Darren," Carvalho said. "He isn't the referee. Listen, he hit me with something because I remember going down. I shouldn't have been caught with the punch in the first place because some referees are safety-first and you don't get to do it again. I feel bad he got a big win and was booed. It wasn't his call to stop it like that."
Elkins made history with the win. The UFC started its 145-pound division in 2011, and Elkins is the first fighter in UFC featherweight history to win five straight. Champion Jose Aldo is riding a lengthy winning streak as a champion — but he fought at featherweight in World Extreme Cagefighting before that promotion merged with the UFC and is 4-0 since the merger.
Taking virtually no damage in the fight, Elkins should be medically eligible for a quick return if he wants it.
Elkins (16-2, 6-1 UFC) improved to 6-1 in the UFC and trails only Munster native Stephan Bonnar (15-8, 8-7 UFC) for most UFC wins for a region resident.