This Saturday night, as “Rush” Georges St, Pierre (20-2) looks to win the rematch and successfully defend his title against opposing TUF 12 coach “Kos” Josh Koscheck (15-4), there is another match-up on the main card that could potentially shake up the welterweight division with former title contender “Pitbull” Thiago Alves (16-7) taking on “Doomsday” John Howard (14-5). With the addition of more than 70 fighters after the WEC/UFC merger, a loss for either Alves or Howard, depending on his performance, could result in a pink slip. Two fighters, one winner, and a potential of several different scenarios occurring.
“The Pitbull” is currently winless in his two most recent appearances inside the Octagon, and is looking to get back to his victorious ways. Prior to the two consecutive losses Alves had experienced a seven fight win streak, defeating of “Lights Out” Chris Lytle (30-17-5), UFC Hall of Famer and one of the most dominant UFC Welterweight Champions of all time Matt Hughes (43-8), and current top contender Josh Koscheck. A win for Alves will certainly not earn him a title shot in his talent rich division but does put him back in the mix against the top level contenders. If Alves does win, the UFC will probably match him up against either another former title contender in “The Outlaw” Dan Hardy (23-8), or quite possibly the loser of GSP/Koscheck.
This fight is a crossroads in Thiago’s career. It means the difference between just remaining relevant and becoming the most feared gatekeeper in the sport. In fact, a loss to Howard may not be the only thing to result in him getting his walking out papers from the UFC. Dana White would certainly frown on his failure to make weight for the fight considering he has had numerous issues making weight in the past. He was half a pound over in his UFC 117 fight against Jon Fitch (22-3) and four points over at UFC 85 against Matt Hughes. In his other fights, he has needed the extra one to two hours to make 170lbs. Getting cut from the UFC would give him some time to work out his weight issues and improve before possibly being re-signed.
Should Alves join the ranks of “former-UFC fighters”, he would not be out of a job for long – with his exciting style and his penchant for finishing fights, he would be quickly snagged by a rival organization. Bellator and Strikeforce should be watching this fight closely since they could be signing a future title contender to their respective welterweight division’s championship belt should Thiago fail to perform, or worse, fail to make weight.
Standing across the Octagon from Alves will be “Doomsday” John Howard. “Doomsday” will be looking to get one step closer to a title shot as he goes up against the heavy handed Brazilian. Howard is rebounding from a loss but considering that Howard preceded that loss with a four fight UFC and seven fight overall winning streak, a victory here still moves him into the creme de la creme of the UFC’s welterweight division.
Although Howard is predominantly a wrestler he does possess impressive submission skills that have yet to be seen by any of his UFC opponents. His secret arsenal serves as a potent threat to his opponents, as should it hit the mat, they will not be expecting “Doomsday” to capitalize on an unprotected limb and force the tap.
Ultimately a loss here could result in Howard being cut, but it is far more unlikely than it is for Alves. Howard hasn’t had any known issues with the UFC so far and would be facing only his second loss in six UFC bouts. A loss to Alves would not necessarily be a bad thing, either. There has been a rivalry brewing on Twitter between Howard and fellow UFC welterweight “Rumble” Anthony Johnson (8-3). To those who question the career building opportunities of Twitter fueled hype, the proof is in the co-main event for UFC 124 between “Skyscraper” Stefan Struve (17-4) and “Big Sexy” Sean McCorkle (10-0). If it wasn’t for the back-and-forth trash talk on Twitter, the match-up would more than likely be featured on the prelims instead of designated as a main event staple. The UFC can pick up where the Twitter feud between Johnson and Howard left off, perhaps offering it as an Ultimate Fight Night main event, but the bout doesn’t make much sense if Howard defeats Alves.
Win or lose, Howard has a good chance of staying with the UFC, but it is a must-win situation for both men. While the reasons are obvious for Alves who will almost certainly be cut should he fail to make weight and/or lose the fight, Howard genuinely needs a win to maintain the hype of the hot-young-prospect-turned-legitimate-contender that he needs to carry into the upper levels of a division as deep as welterweight if he has any dreams of seeing a title shot in the next few years. The most dangerous wolves in the pack are the hungry ones and the cornered ones. Howard is hungry and will do whatever it takes to feed his title aspirations. Thiago is cornered – he not only has to win but win convincingly and make weight or he will lose his job. The only guaranteed winners of this fight are the fans as these two men fight to determine which of the two biggest motivators is stronger: desperation or desire.