At UFC 71, we were all dramatically introduced to Houston Alexander. It never hurts your exposure having your first UFC fight on the PPV card with Liddell vs. Jackson, and Alexander did not waste his chance to get our attention. He fought Keith Jardine that night, who was very upset to be facing a nobody after knocking out Forrest Griffin.
As the fight began Jardine hurt Alexander with strikes, but Alexander quickly regained his composure and pounced on Jardine. He delivered brutal uppercuts, putting Jardine to a knee. Every time Jardine tried to stand, Alexander laid in with more punishment, and "the Dean of Mean" succumbed to his relentless attack at 48 seconds of round one.
It was the kind of knock out that gives you chills, the kind that has everyone at home talking and everyone in the arena on their feet. Jardine looked just as shocked as the rest of us, though a bit more concussed.
Instantly, the former nobody became a fan favorite. Not too many fighters become popular overnight, and fewer can say they've entered the octagon in the same dramatic fashion. With the win, Houston moved to 7-1-1.
With the buzz from his first fight, the UFC put him in another big card, with the main event being Jackson vs. Henderson. Anyone who watched his first fight had high hopes of seeing another exciting outing, and Houston did not disappoint. He dispatched his next opponent in a very similar fashion, knocking out Alessio Sakara at the 1:01 mark of round one.
This threw Alexander further into the spotlight, and had people taking him more seriously as a new threat to the 205-pound weight class. He's also a pretty hard guy to dislike, considering the fact that he's a single father with six children, fighting to provide for his family.
Everyone seemed to take a liking to the new UFC fighter, and had hopes of seeing more carnage in his next fights.
With a few victories over top level guys, Alexander would easily have been on the fast track to a title fight with his newfound popularity. That train was derailed quite abruptly, however, when he faced his next opponent, Thiago Silva.
We all saw a different part of Houston that night—his ground game. Once Silva took him down, he quickly mounted Alexander, and rained down blows from the top position. The fight was halted at 3:25 of the first round.
It was a big loss for Alexander, but people weren't writing him off just yet. The one loss did not erase his prior exciting victories, and some people still had high hopes for him. His next fight was scheduled against James Irvin at a UFC Fight Night.
The fight was very exciting to most, considering it was a guaranteed slug-fest. James Irvin has a long list of KO victims, so we knew we'd be seeing fireworks during this one.
The crowd was buzzing with anticipation and as the bell rang the two fighters both moved in to trade blows. Irvin opened the fight with a huge superman punch and...well, that was basically it. BAM! Two more strikes to the downed Alexander was all it took for Steve Mazagati to stop the fight at eight seconds of round one. With the loss, Houston's record moved to 8-3-1.
All of Alexander's momentum now came to a standstill with two first round ko victories followed by two first round ko losses. James Irvin delivered one hell of a superman punch, and exposed the fact that Houston Alexander, along with a poor ground game, may not have the greatest chin in the business. A lot of his praise now turned to criticism, questioning just how good the fighter really is.
His next fight is Wednesday night against Eric Shafer. Shafer is a black-belt in BJJ, so this poses obvious problems for Houston. If Houston keeps the fight standing we may see more fireworks, but if Shafer gets it to the ground we may be looking at a submission victory in his favor.
So where does Houston sit after this fight? He is a very exciting fighter, but if he continues to lose that won't be enough to keep fans interested in the Nebraska native. If he can't secure another victory then his two UFC wins will look like lucky knock outs from an overzealous fighter, rather than tactical victories from a skillful striker. Even if he gets past Schafer, he still has much more to prove.
I personally became a huge fan of Alexander after his victory over Keith Jardine, and I hope he knocks Schafer out and restarts his climb up the 205-pound ladder.
There are so many exciting fights if you pit him against top level competition. Who wouldn't like to see him square up with the likes of Wandy, Rampage, Forrest, Shogun, Liddell (if he's still fighting), etc.?
Before we see that though he'll have to take on some more mid-level guys at 205, possibly guys like Vera or Franklin who recently made the move to Light Heavy.
Only time will tell if we will ever see those bouts, and of course he still needs to get through his opponent on Wednesday before any of those fights will even be considered.
The question is, do you think Alexander has the skill to progress to that level, and even someday fight for the title? Or are his 15 minutes of fame up, leaving us to only watch him fullfill his UFC contract with losses and slip back to being another nobody?
(He'll still be known as the guy that knocked Jardine the **** out, of course).
I for one believe he could be great and, as I said, I hope we see him pull in some wins from here on out.
What are your thoughts?
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