The biggest fight of his career didn't quite go the way Darren Elkins hoped.
Taking a short-notice fight against a former title challenger on Saturday, Elkins was stopped with a 68-second knockout by Chad Mendes at UFC on FOX 7.
The Hobart-based featherweight, his five-fight win streak in the division snapped, will go back to work and try to climb has way back into title contention.
“I had a great training camp coming into (the fight)," Elkins said. "Chad is a tough guy. He caught me and did his job putting me away. Hat's off to him.”
Elkins (16-3, 6-2 UFC) took the fight just a couple days after his most recent win, a knockout of Antonio Carvalho at UFC 158 in March in Montreal. The assignment was to fill in for Illinois native Clay Guida, who had been injured in training camp and forced out of the bout with Mendes (14-1, 5-1 UFC).
It was a tough one, and Elkins knew it. But high risk often equals high reward in the competitive UFC, and a win over Mendes, who in January 2012 was fighting champion Jose Aldo for the featherweight title, could have meant Elkins himself would be fighting for the belt later this year.
Mendes made it known quickly in the fight that another title shot was what he wanted to get back to.
In a battle of two former college wrestlers, it was thought the fight could turn into a standup war. Even if Elkins wanted to use his wrestling, Mendes never gave him a chance. He opened with leg kicks, then landed an overhand right that wobbled the former Portage High School state wrestling champ.
Mendes wasted no time pouncing on Elkins, and after landing a few more punches with Elkins pressed against the fence, referee Herb Dean stepped in to stop the fight at the 1:08 mark. The fight closed out the preliminary card of UFC on FOX 7 and was broadcast live on the FX cable network.
"It was a quick finish, and if I could do that every time, I would," Mendes said. "Overall, I got in there and I felt great. After the Aldo fight, I really worked on my standup. I'm just starting to find myself in the standup world. Props to Darren for taking the fight on short notice. I knew he was tough. He's a tough, tough dude, but I just stuck to what I knew."
Mendes could find himself right back in the thick of things for the featherweight title. Champ Aldo defends the belt in August against Milwaukee's Anthony Pettis. In July, Ricardo Lamas, of Oak Brook, fights Chan Sung Jung in what also is considered to be a pivotal matchup in the division.
As for Elkins, with two fights in a little more than a month, a return wouldn't be likely before this fall.