The name John Howard will sound pretty familiar to most fight fans. If you’re having hard time remembering who he is, let me refresh your mind. No, he’s not the former prime minister of Australia, but rather an ex-UFC welterweight who flew into television screens and hearts for a stretch back in 2009. Racking up four straight wins in the division, including a ‘Fight of the Night’ in his first UFC bout, Howard seemed poised for stardom.
But something went wrong. Just when it seemed like the sky was the limit, Howard faced a tumultuous slide, dropping three straight fights to Jake Ellenberger, Thiago Alves and Matt Brown. Sadly, that led to his release from the organization.
And poof. Just like that, Howard’s flame extinguished as quickly as it had lit.
Howard wasn’t done, however. He set back to proving he was a real force in MMA and that he wasn’t going anywhere. Since being cut from the UFC, Howard has composed a record of 6-1, claiming the Classic Entertainment and Sports MMA middleweight championship. Following the Boston bombings, the lifelong Bostonian decided to take a chance.
He phoned up UFC matchmaker Joe Silva and told him, “…what would it take to put me on the card in Boston?” Silva told him the card was stacked and there wasn’t much he could do, but he did tell Howard, “Stay busy.”
After a few injuries and other issues bumped Nick Ring and Josh Samman off of the card, Howard got the call. He would be facing Ultimate Fighter runner-up Uriah Hall in his UFC return. Gifted a second chance in the UFC and a second chance to realize his potential, Howard is grateful.
It’s hard to imagine a more perfect scenario. Stepping into the Octagon after a tragic slide in form nearly three years ago, and to do it at home in Boston on the debut of UFC Fight Night on the new Fox Sports 1 network is a massive opportunity. Hall is a name. He’s a popular fighter and he promises to be a big challenge; not only could a win for Howard spell a UFC return, but it could catapult him right into top-15 talk if he does it in style.
Howard’s style has always been to stand and trade. In his 6-1 stretch since leaving the UFC, five of his wins have come via knockout. He has big hands and a lot of power in them, with a wrestling game to boot.
Uriah Hall isn’t a pushover though.
Hall is 7-3 in his mixed MMA and his three losses come from Chris Weidman, Costa Phillippou and Kevin Gastelum. Weidman is the man who beat the legend in Anderson Silva, Phillippou is a perennial title contender at 185 and Gastelum won the Ultimate Fighter. Hall’s losses haven’t exactly been to mediocre competition, and the former Ring of Combat middleweight champion won’t lie down to the hometown favorite.
One would expect the crowd to be raucously in the corner of the man they call “Doomsday”, but Howard might need more than that to leave with his hand raised. He’s pleaded with the UFC for a second chance and they, uncharacteristically, have given him that on the biggest stage he could reasonably ask for. Howard has to cash in on his opportunity.
He has promised to “stand and bang” against Hall, and he’ll certainly be hoping his punches pack enough power to sit the hungry young middleweight down. This is undeniably the last chance for Howard’s career. A win and he can begin an ascent up the middleweight ladder, but a loss will almost undoubtedly send him crashing out of the organization for good.
If pressed for a prediction I say that Howard pulls out a victory. I can promise that if Howard wins, it won’t be by decision. He has a track record for knockouts and in this situation, he’ll surely want to entertain the home crowd and I wager that Doomsday will turn Hall’s lights out because if he doesn’t, that’s exactly what will happen to his career.