by Brian Lopez-Benchimol – MMAWeekly.com
The dark horse of the welterweight division will finally see some light, as John Howard makes his first soiree into main card status in the UFC.
Going the Jon Fitch route, Howard has impressed many through his dynamic mix of both aggressive wrestling and striking. And it’s this style that has earned him four-straight victories inside of the Octagon, his last two performances ending in dramatic fashion – both by knockout.
Great performance justifies great reward, and all the while Howard knew it was just a matter of time.
“I kind of figured (the UFC) were going to hook me up because of having a big showing like that (the first round knockout over Daniel Roberts in Howard’s most recent fight). They pulled that fight onto the air (on TV). I was really thinking they were going to hook me up and they did,” said Howard while a guest on the MMAWeekly Radio show.
Now finally making his way onto the televised portion of a UFC card, beginning with UFC on Versus 2: Jones vs. Matyushenko on the Versus channel on Aug. 1, the Boston native will meet fellow welterweight powerhouse Jake Ellenberger, a noted wrestler with a penchant for packing a heavy punch.
Impressing many in a losing effort to former WEC champion Carlos Condit, Ellenberger returned shortly thereafter in devastating fashion when he finished veteran Mike Pyle with strikes in the second round, marking his 13th win via TKO or KO.
The always humble Howard knows that Ellenberger is for real, and will prove a formidable opponent despite sporting a deceptive 1-1 record in the Octagon.
“(Ellenberger) is a grinder kind of fighter, heavy hands, skilled wrestler, so I got my work cut out for me,” said the 27-year-old. “I think it’s going to be fireworks. We have similar styles: really aggressive, really powerful. That’s going to be nothing but fireworks, a back and forth fight, and I’m thinking Fight of the Night, easy.”
While Ellenberger is one of the more noted wrestler’s that the welterweight division has to offer, Howard, who represents team “Wai Kru MMA,” doesn’t buy into the wrestler’s advantage, as he has been able to successfully stifle many opponents in the past with his array of grappling skills.
“I think in my past career I’ve fought better wrestlers than me and I’ve proven to be a force to reckoned with,” said Howard.
“I think Daniel Roberts was a better wrestler than me. I mean, he did take me down, but I took him down too. I’ve been fighting wrestlers so long, I just got to the point that I just fight them now. I just know where to prepare for them. I’m mentally (more well) prepared for them now than I was ever.”
An in your face fighter, Howard welcomes the challenge that Ellenberger presents as a near mirror image of himself. Though evenly matched, Howard believes he still holds the advantage in all but one area of the game, and if Ellenberger can keep up, the more intense the fight will be.
“I will set the pace,” said Howard.
“I can fight either a high pace or a slow pace, but if he wants to go at a high pace, I’ll match him. I’ll try to match him and step it up just a little. I’m not really intimidated. I think he’s good, I think it’s going to be a good fight, but I want to see what he does when I put the same pressure back in his face. I want to see if he folds under pressure, because I’m used to pressure, pressure is no big deal for me. But most people I put pressure on they can’t put the pressure back, so I just want to see if he can put the pressure back.”