John Howard is hoping to make a run in the UFC’s welterweight division, and he should get quite the test at UFC 168. Howard will square off against hard-hitting Siyar Bahadurzada on the December 28 card in Las Vegas. Howard is coming off a split decision victory in what was a hugely disappointing middleweight bout against Uriah Hall at UFC Fight Night 26. The dreary nature of the fight did little to raise Howard’s stock so he’s decided to make the drop to 170 pounds.
Howard has posted five wins in his eight fights in the Octagon. In a previous welterweight stint in the UFC he went four and three. Those losses came against high level competition in the forms of Matt Brown, Thiago Alves and Jake Ellenberger. Howard has 21 career wins with 15 of them coming by either knockout or submission.
Bahadurzada’s UFC tenure has been plagued by injuries and as a result the Afghan slugger has fought just twice in two years. He was forced to pull out of scheduled fights at UFC 142 and UFC 149 due to injuries, and most recently was forced to bail on a scheduled fight with Robbie Lawler at UFC on FOX 8 because of injury issues. Bahadurzada is an outstanding finisher with 17 stoppages by either knockout or submission in his 21 career victories.
He made a spectacular Octagon debut in destroying Paulo Thiago in just 42 seconds in a Knockout of the Night performance. However that momentum was stunted in a decision loss against Dong Hyun Kim. Kim relied on his strength and grappling skills to keep Bahadurzada on the canvas for a good portion of that fight.
With both of these competitors in need of a serious career spark, this seems to be a case of UFC matchmakers putting together a pair of explosive punchers in the hopes of getting a spectacular finish. Standing and trading will likely be the preference as both Howard and Bahadurzada need an impressive performance to stay relevant in a welterweight division that features a wealth of talent.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports