UFC middleweight John Howard.
At UFC Fight Night 26 on Saturday night in Boston, middleweight John Howard was the biggest underdog on the entire card. But he didn't let it get him down. Howard dirtied it up and ground out a split-decision win over much-hyped Uriah Hall.
Hall (7-4) is now 0-2 in the UFC, including a shocking loss in the finale of the most recent season of The Ultimate Fighter. Howard (21-8) has now won seven in a row, and this was his first fight in the UFC in more than two years.
What we will remember about this fight
It was a fun fight, but it shouldn't have been on the main card. At least not when the undercard featured a brilliant and violent win by Michael "Mayday" McDonald over Brad "One Punch" Pickett. Oh, well. They were on the same channel, which is strange, but I suppose it's enough to dampen my indignation.
In any case, Howard has solid experience and was motivated for a return to the UFC in front of his home crowd, but he didn't show a great deal of fight acumen. Hall was tentative throughout the fight. He landed takedowns and some strikes, but never seemed to get all that tantalizing athleticism into gear.
What we learned about Uriah Hall
He may have a big helping of physical tools, but his mental game needs work. Kelvin Gastelum smothered him in the TUF finale, and Hall appeared to be thinking way too hard against Howard on Saturday night. He seemed to pre-emptively doubt each move and then failed to fire as a result.
What we learned about John Howard
He may not be ready for a title run, but he was good enough on Saturday to win an uncontroversial split decision. He still throws with very bad intentions, but his clinch game seemed a little more polished, and a big takedown at the end of the second round may have sealed the win for him on the scorecards.
What's next for Hall
With Patrick Cote now committed to coaching an international version of TUF, perhaps MMA veteran and former boxer Alessio Sakara might be available as he waits for his rematch with the Canadian. I'd like to see Hall stand and trade with another grizzled vet.
What's next for Howard
I'm not ready to run him too far up the flagpole. I'd suggest something like another TUF alumnus in Luke "Bigslow" Barnatt, who won his formal UFC debut in April.