The last time we saw John Howard inside the Octagon, the left side of his face had swollen up like Hasim Rahman’s forehead following his bout with Evander Holyfield.
A combination of elbows and punches from Jake Ellenberger caused the damage, and ended Howard’s seven-fight winning streak, a run that included four-straight since signing with the UFC. After establishing himself as an entertaining fighter and climbing the welterweight ladder over the last two years, Howard is ready to close out 2010 by earning the biggest victory of his career against former title challenger Thiago Alves.
“This is a great opportunity for me, to fight someone who comes in with a Muay Thai background similar to mine,” Howard said in advance of making the trip to Montreal for UFC 124. “He comes with strong kicks and I come with strong punches, so I think it’s going to be a pretty exciting fight, man.”
While some match-ups between fighters employing the same style deteriorate into awkward encounters with both men remaining overly cautious, Howard expects the opening moments of his meeting with Alves to be a fire-fight.
“The first few minutes of the fight are going to be really explosive. It’s going to be all about power: who controls the center of the ring, and who has the better technique. After a few exchanges, it’s going to be a chess game; one is going to try and capitalize on the other’s mistakes. It’s going to be a really fast-paced fight with good technique and good power.”
UFC President Dana White was incensed when Alves was unable to reach the welterweight limit against his fellow Top 5 foe in Oakland, going so far as publically questioning whether the American Top Team product should make the move to middleweight. Now that he’s on the verge of returning to the cage, Alves’ weight will surely become one of the minor storylines of Fight Week leading up to Friday’s weigh-ins. Howard isn’t concerned either way.
“I really don’t care about it because we’re going to fight regardless. If he doesn’t make weight, he has to suffer the consequences. I’m not really worried about it. His not making weight isn’t going to impact the outcome of the fight, unless he’s like ten-pounds overweight. If he’s two or three-pounds over, it’s no big deal.”
Hopefully, the issue will be proven to be moot on Friday when Alves steps on the scale. One issue that has not been resolved for Howard is his long-standing beef with Anthony “Rumble” Johnson.
The two looked to be on a collision course in early 2010, getting into a heated exchange in the crowd at a UFC event and talking trash back-and-forth in the media leading up to their scheduled meeting in March. But Johnson suffered a knee injury that has kept him sidelined since, and while he’s considering a move to middleweight, Howard would be happy to see him remain at welterweight, at least for one more fight.
“I don’t like him, he doesn’t like me; that thing is on-going, man. Unfortunately, he’s big; he’s over 230 or something like that, so I think he’s at 185 for right now. But if he ever makes welterweight again, I’m coming for that fight, man.”
Despite still having Johnson in the back of his mind, Howard is not looking past Alves and UFC 124. Excited by the opportunity to test himself against a Top 10 fighter, Howard looks at this fight as a chance to establish himself in the division and open up some new doors in 2011.
“When you beat a Top 10 guy, you can’t refuse fights, man; you have to fight anybody the UFC puts in front of you, and that’s what I plan on doing. That’s what I’ve been doing, and that’s what I’m gonna do. I really don’t think too far ahead; I’ve got this big fight in front of me; I’m just happy to be fighting a guy that a Top 10 welterweight. If I do win, whoever comes next comes next and you can just bring’em on.”
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