By Jason Kelly
Knock outs, knocked out cold, utter destruction; all things Thiago Alves and John Howard do on a regular basis. Josh Koscheck and Georges St. Pierre have consumed so much of UFC 124’s attention that other fights are being overlooked. First on that list is Thiago Alves vs. John Howard. This fight has enough TNT packed in it to explode a casual fan’s interest. Thiago Alves wins the popularity contest hands down but, the lesser known John Howard is a tremendously dangerous opponent for Alves. Not only does Howard match up to Alves’ striking ability, he is also begging for Alves to stand up with him and being the dominant striker Thiago is, that is something you do not wish upon yourself unless you are extremely confident in your striking.
Howard’s Muay Thai has proved efficient in MMA. Thiago’s Muay Thai has proved efficient in MMA. These two might trade technical combinations until one of them makes a mistake or they may fight cautiously, according to Howard’s wishes and Alves’ need to win, I expect a knock out in the fashion of Paul Daley over Scott Smith at last weekend’s Strike Force. Alves is in the hot seat after not making weight entering his last bout, which is something he has had problems with in the past and Dana White has a problem with always. When a fighter does not make weight it is an embarrassment to him and his camp, not to mention a disgrace to the opponent. Mr. White is never afraid to distribute his opinion and when it comes to missing weight; White’s opinion is unforgiving. Alves is aware of this and he has inducted a great weight maintenance trainer into his team but, Alves will need more than weight maintenance to win this fight. Thiago will need his Muay Thai to be on point when Howard goes hunting for Alves’ head on Saturday night.
Alves has fought a higher quality of MMA fighters than Howard has, and Thiago’s Muay Thai and Vale Tudo credentials exceed themselves, which will presumably position confidence on the side of Thiago Alves seeing as he has more experience. However, John Howard will have hunger and determination on his side. Howard expects Thiago to stand with him and strike as opposed to Alves setting up takedowns and that is an enormous relief for a stand up fighter. It will allow Howard to commit to every strike, Alves as well but, Howard’s takedown defense is nothing to brag about and Alves’ is, so we have seen Alves throw without restraint. Howard will need more MMA experience at this level before he can strike without hesitation and be comfortable striking and avoiding takedowns, that being said, Alves has the ability to turn this into an MMA match and not purely rely on striking with Howard.
Alves lost his last two bouts and to add insult to injury, he did not make the 170 pound weight limit he needed to reach during his last bout against Jon Fitch. That combination does not amount to positive outcomes in Dana White’s mind. Thiago has to feel the pressure to win this fight and for that very reason he may use some wrestling and ground and pound to fight safe and get a victory under his belt. Howard cannot take down Alves with the same ease Alves can take Howard down with, meaning Howard will be looking to decapitate Alves. Howard knows he needs a win after losing his last bout to Jake Ellenberger and even more so, he knows if he can beat Thiago Alves his future will be looking very bright. UFC is cutting fighters now the way Wal-Mart slashes prices, it is a weekly occurrence. I do not think Alves would be released with a loss in this fight but, I think Alves would acquire the role of gatekeeper position. Howard on the other hand, does risk receiving his walking papers with a loss in this fight, he does not have the name or drawing power Alves does which makes Howard easier to release. I could not predict a clear cut favorite in this fight but, I am predicting devastating, accurate striking with a Knock Out of the Night bonus attached to the winner’s pay stub.