UFC on ESPN 35: Darren Elkins vs. Tristan Connelly prediction, betting odds, preview
Darren Elkins vs. Tristan Connelly is a great fight pitting two similar fighters of two generations against one another. Elkins, a veteran of the UFC with 25 fights in the promotion has made a name as one of the most exciting fighters due to his heart and guts performances, which often end with him rallying back from a seemingly lost battle to come out the bloodied victor. On the other hand, in only two fights in the UFC so far, Tristan Connelly of Canada, has shown that he too posses the kind of heart to come from behind, edging out a close fight with Michel Periera in his first fight by out wrestling the Brazilian in round three, and then coming back in round three against Pat Sabitini to make a much closer loss than it would’ve seemed after round two.
Elkins for the past two years has seemingly hit a new stride when he secured two wins in a row in 2020 and 2021. However, following this, a devastating loss to Cub Swanson derailed the potential new streak, yet a win over Connelly will once again put him back on track. For Connelly, being just 1-1 in his UFC tenure so far, a win would put him back in the correct column for the UFC, but fans will have to watch on Saturday night to see if he can succeed.
- Elkins: -170
- Connelly: +150
Darren Elkins, though experienced and an intelligent fighter, has never been the most proficient technician in the octagon. His strikes aren’t extremely sharp or quick, but a level of relentlessness, tactics, and mental fortitude often lead to him breaking his opponents. His ability is built on top of two very important elements, his cardio and his mental toughness, while everyone can get knocked out should the right strike hit the right area, Elkins has consistently shown an ability to come back from accumulative punishment to rally for a win from behind, and also showed the conditioning necessary to catching up.
He’s not a fighter you can easily pin down to one style, he will happily strike or grapple, and in terms of the former has a few interesting combinations to consider. He likes to throw the right uppercut before feinting the left and instead throwing the left round kick to the head. His use of the left leg comes often as he already dips to the right both to stay off center line on entry, but also to have the right power hand cocked and ready. Regardless what it does is put him in balance in order to use the left leg, but makes throwing the right more difficult. Another consistent technique seen by Elkins is the overhand right as the clinch is broken.
His grappling abilities lean more towards wrestling than submission grappling, as he is more interested in maintaining control than securing the details of position. For example, he will put himself in positional danger to maintain top pressure and chest to chest control, but sometimes fails to manage the lower body at the same time. In doing so, in a pure wrestling exchange he would do better than if a technical jiu jitsu sequence were to occur where he has to be aware of all limbs rather than maintaining top position. In likewise fashion, when he is defensive, his worry is in regaining top or getting to his feet where he may too readily eat strikes in order to do so, yet as per what he has become famous for, taking damage is a hallmark of a classic Darren Elkins come from behind win. His grappling style’s effectiveness is also based on taxing his opponent, if he thrives at something in particular, it’s surviving, and then coming back once he has forced his opponents to gas their arms or lungs out going for failing submissions or ground and pound.
Tristan Connelly actually shares many aspects with Elkins as a fighter. He may not be the most physically imposing or explosive fighter but with toughness and endurance he makes up for a lot of it. Although only coming off of two UFC fights in his career so far, it’s notable that he ended the bouts seemingly the fresher fighter and winning both final rounds. Where he differs most is the more specific areas, where Elkins may use more kicks, Connelly may have the advantage in dirty boxing, he excels both with his hands inside the clinch but also shows a great left hook when he shucks the clinch off and breaks.
More notably though, is Connelly’s submission game. Like Elkins, Connelly does his best work on top and shows a few holds on the bottom. Sometimes Connelly is caught on his back and unable to get up finds himself throwing ineffective strikes out of desperation rather than grappling correctly and attempting to create space to sweep or threaten. On top however, he tends to prefer to actually give space in order to posture up or even stack his opponent’s guard to land more impactful ground and pound. This allows more space for his opponents which plays into Connelly’s scrambling game, within which he can often grab onto submission, most often attempting guillotines but more often completing rear naked chokes if the back is exposed.
The two men are very similar in the areas they need to contend in to win a fight. Pacing, and conditioning will be tested for both fighters, toughness as well as control. On the feet I think that Elkins’ use of the lead leg will be effective as Connelly also stands orthodox and dips slightly off to the right, however in the clinch I think the less battle worn Connelly is a bit more athletic and agile when it comes to scrambling. It’s important for both to establish top position should it hit the floor as neither are particularly effective guard players, but I think that it’s more important for Connelly as this is also where Elkins’ experience most becomes a factor. Regardless, in a very closely contested fight, I believe that neither will be able to finish one another and it will really come down to who has a bit more left in the tank come the third round. I believe this kind of fight is second nature to Darren Elkins, who through his larger MMA experience will be able to make the correct decisions down the stretch and edge out the win.
Prediction: Darren Elkins to win