MONTREAL | Darren Elkins is close, and he knows it.
The Hobart-based UFC featherweight has won four straight bouts, and in the 145-pound division that puts him in elite company. A win Saturday gets him to five, and the only one in the division with a longer streak than that is the champion, Jose Aldo.
Elkins (15-2, 5-1 UFC) fights Canadian Antonio Carvalho (15-5, 2-1 UFC) on the preliminary card of "UFC 158: St-Pierre vs. Diaz" Saturday at Bell Centre in Montreal. The fight airs live on the FX cable network with a broadcast that starts at 7 p.m., ahead of the pay-per-view main card.
The title picture in the division is set for the near-term future. Anthony Pettis, of Milwaukee, became the No. 1 contender for the lightweight title in January – but in February, after Aldo's most recent title defense, decided he wanted to drop to 145 for a shot at the belt there instead of going after it at 155. He got his wish, though he hasn't fought at featherweight in the UFC, and he'll have his shot in August.
So Elkins doesn't have a title shot on his mind anytime soon, anyway. Right now, he's concentrating on what Carvalho brings to the table.
"I've got my camp down, and that's why I think I'm getting better and better each fight," Elkins said. "I've got everything I've been working on and progressing. If you watch Carvalho, he's a kicker, man. You've got to be ready for those kicks. He throws tons of them. And that's the big difference in the camp – getting ready for some kicks and countering off kicks. He used to be a soccer player, so he likes to kick a lot."
The hallmark of Elkins' four straight wins has been dominating his opponents on the ground. The state champion wrestler from Portage is more than comfortable when the fight hits the canvas. Steven Siler learned that in Montreal this past November. Highly touted Diego Brandao found out the hard way in his first bout after winning "The Ultimate Fighter." So did Tiequan Zhang and Michihiro Omigawa, making Elkins a perfect 4-0 at featherweight since making the drop from lightweight following his only UFC loss.
But though the four wins typically have been fairly dominant unanimous decisions, they still have been decisions. And in the instant-gratification world of mixed martial arts, fans salivate over knockouts and submissions. To some extent, so, too, does the UFC brass that books fights and, more importantly, title shots.
It's not as if Elkins has been taking opponents down and watching the clock for 15 minutes, though – an oft-criticized style known as "lay and pray."
"I've definitely been trying to finish guys – I'm not just laying on guys," Elkins said. I'm either punching or trying to advance position. Every fight, I'm definitely going for the finish. The thing I keep on going back to in camp is getting better in certain positions where I can finish the fight."
For his name to be pushed a little higher up the contenders list, it's a finish that Elkins believes he needs.
If that comes on Saturday against Carvalho – a highlight-reel win to reach five straight – then Elkins sees big things coming soon.
"I'm trying to focus on this fight, get the 'W,' and then I've got a feeling if I've got five straight it's going to lead to a bigger fight – a Top 10 guy is what I'm hoping for," he said. "And a Top 10 guy, if I win this fight, is kind of what I feel like I deserve. But it's not my call. As long as they keep me busy, I'm always pretty happy."