Houston, We Have A Problem – The Biggest UFC Choke Job Ever?

Houston Alexander vs Kimbo Slice“I could have done a better job on you know, I thought I gave it my best effort but I could have did better. We wanted him to get up and we want him to take his medicine but again I could have been more aggressive.”

“He’s out with American Top Team, so, you know those guys are good, good at takedown defense and they you know are great guys at taking you down so he did a good job.”

Those quotes are from one Houston Alexander, who have may delivered the gaggiest choke job we have seen in a big UFC fight ever. That covers a lot of ground and a lot of fighters who have mental mistakes in the cage, but Houston Alexander is deserving of the heat he is facing after his fight performance last Saturday night.

Going into the fight against Kimbo Slice, Houston Alexander knew that he had the ability to rock Kimbo like he rocked Alessio Sakara and Keith Jardine in the past. It’s no secret that Houston can’t wrestle and can’t defend himself well on the ground, so he has one asset — let his hands fly. He’s not a kick boxer, he’s a puncher. If there was any fight in modern day UFC booking that gave someone with “a puncher’s chance” favorable odds to win, it was this fight. UFC practically gave Houston Alexander a proverbial free roll – and he still crapped out.

The prospect of fighting Kimbo Slice is scary – if you are someone who is sitting on the couch and watching him on television. However, if you are a Mixed Martial Arts fighter, there’s not a lot of reasons to be too scared of him. He’s not fast, he does possess some power but once you take him on the ground and smother him, he is not fast at countering. In terms of striking, he doesn’t have great hand speed and he leaves his legs wide open to get chopped down like someone using an axe to chop down a tree. Kimbo’s biggest strength is literally his aura and his in-ring presence — he scares people. He scares guys like Bo Cantrell, but Houston Alexander was not supposed to be at the same level of scaredy-catness as an entry-level fighter like Bo Cantrell.

Bizarrely, Alexander fought scared. You don’t fight scared against Keith Jardine but you fight scared against Kimbo Slice? What the hell is that about?

There’s a lot of criticism online about the game plan that Houston Alexander brought to the table for the Kimbo fight. The idea was simple – chop the big man down to size. The problem? Houston Alexander is not a kick boxer and he’s not good at kicking. So, in essence, the game plan on paper made sense, but the plan didn’t fit the limited skill set that the fighter in the cage possessed.

The truth is that the Kimbo Slice we saw on Saturday night is vulnerable to most MMA fighters. Against an entry-level kick boxer, he could have gotten TKO’d and not been able to walk out of the cage without assistance – and that’s just on the prospect of leg kicks, let alone the potential use of high kicks. Against a grappler with basic jiu-jitsu like a Roy Nelson, Kimbo can be taken down and smothered. Against a fast puncher, Kimbo’s a sitting target. That last weakness is the one that Houston Alexander should have exploited and was the weakness that every fan thought he would exploit going into the fight.

Instead, we got Houston Alexander who tried a kickboxing strategy and possessed none of the proper kickboxing technique. We got a Houston Alexander who, once taken down by Kimbo, nearly got choked out on live television. Remember, Kimbo Slice is just learning the ground game now – he can barely execute a rudimentary choke sleeper hold and he had one on Houston Alexander. It was incredible to watch Alexander show little defense in giving up his back to Kimbo.

The fact that I’m even spending multiple paragraphs analyzing this fight should tell you the full story. It went the distance, all three rounds, and Kimbo won the fight. Hey, give Kimbo credit. To use a proverbial sports cliché, he took what the opponent gave him and worked with it. He did his part and took home a W. You can’t blame him for what happened in the fight.

The reaction coming out of the fight was one of incredulousness. Seriously, if sportsbooks had put this fight up for public consumption, Houston Alexander would have been a heavy favorite. And if there were side bets on the fight, a prop bet of the fight lasting all three rounds would have been a big number (+400?).

After the fight, Slice accurately assessed what happened in the cage and what Alexander was thinking.

“I guess the first part, you know, the first round or so, you know I guess we were feeling each other out, you know and neither one of us wanted to foolishly rush in, you know what I’m saying, just for the respect of the profession and the sport. You know your opponent possesses some type of skill, you know what I’m saying, and if you just rush in there foolishly you know what I’m saying every fighter got a puncher’s chance, so I guess neither one of us wanted to take that chance and get KO’d in the first round, which we probably was both anxious to KO the other one in the first round but no one wanted to get knocked out.

Knowing when you have opportunity, you take it. You know what I’m saying, but being smart about it so.

Knowing that I cut weight, you know what I’m saying, I know I was a little bit stronger than he was, you know what I’m saying, because he’s normally a Light Heavyweight and I’m normally a heavyweight so I knew within the fight I was going to get a slam, I just wanted to wait until the right time was and capitalize on a good one.

I’m feeling it right now, I don’t think I have no dislocation or nothing but I know I landed, I didn’t, I know I was a little tired and I didn’t really get a good arch and I know I felt him coming right down on me and even when he landed on me, I was right along with the crowd, I was like, oooohhhhh, you know and I knew that was a good one on him and a bad one on me, but it was all good, it was part of being a fighter.

Inside I actually feel good, it’s the outside I’m like I took some good kicks to the shin, you know what I’m saying, we practiced checking them but you know in the fight the adrenalin flowing you can take about a good 7, 8 kicks before it really starts taking a toll and then you are like, oh yeah, check, I got yeah, I could check them, but by that time the kicks you know had took its toll a little bit.”

Think about that – if Alexander had demonstrated any ability to do leg kicks, he would have chopped the scary man down to size. Of course, given what we saw with Alexander and his complete lack of ground game, the only way he could have used the leg kicks against Kimbo was to try to TKO him and get a referee stoppage due to leg damage. It’s not like Alexander could have chopped him down and then pounced on him with punches.

Despite all of the qualifiers and the limited skill set that he possesses, Alexander has no excuse for not winning this fight by knockout. None. Which is why I think his performance on Saturday night not only could have cost him a roster spot with UFC, but also put him in the annals of choke job artists in the cage. There will be many who associated big upsets (think: Matt Serra beating GSP as a +1100 underdog) with choke jobs, but that’s not really a choke job — that’s just an upset. We know what happened when they had a re-match. Houston Alexander should beat Kimbo Slice every time in the cage. If you used a prediction service like AccuScore and had then run 10,000 simulations of that fight, Houston Alexander would probably be a 85-90% favorite to win. And yet he managed to take the ultimate defeat and grasp it away from the jaws of victory.

As for the cries from fans that somehow Houston Alexander took a fall for Kimbo Slice, forget about it. What you witnessed wasn’t a Jesse Ventura-style conspiracy but rather one of the biggest choke jobs in the history of the UFC. The outcome left so many people stunned that even the anchors on the Saturday night edition of SportsCenter on ESPN echoed that the result was not the outcome they were expecting. Neither was anyone else.