I appreciate how the UFC has treated Matt Brown. His record was unremarkable (7-6) leading up to his stint on The Ultimate Fighter in 2008, just like it is now (11-10).
Without rewarding the guys that will throw down at the drop of a hat, or on the whim of an errant Joe Silva phone call, the business end of things would make the sport seem a little too harsh. These are, after all, human beings throwing their physical and spiritual selves on the sacrificial altar for our insatiable appetite.
For every Gerald Harris or Danillo Villefort, who were subjected to the sharp side of the UFC's axe, there is a Matt Brown or a Keith Jardine, who have been rewarded for assimilating themselves as a combat commodity. Just call the number, set the date, and punch the on-button, and they'll fight until the referee tells them not to.
Brown was initially slated to face Mark Scanlon, who was then replaced by Matt Riddle, who was then replaced by Rich Attonito, who was then replaced by John Howard. I have a sense that the closest Brown came to showing any type of emotional reaction over the rampant change in opponents was expelling a brownish glob of chewin' tobackey with a stern, statuesque expression.
John Howard, a Muay Thai technician with heavy hands, powerful takedowns, and a purple belt in BJJ, will face Brown on the main card of "UFC on Versus 4" Sunday evening. After sneaking by two mid-tier opponents in split-decisions (Chris Wilson, Tamdan McCrory), Howard thrived in highlight reel knockouts of two high-level adversaries (Dennis Hallman, Daniel Roberts).
Howard will enter the cage with two consecutive losses; Brown with three. The match-up is laid out after the jump.
Brown has explosive stand-up and loves to brawl. Really, he's clipped everyone with his sharp hands that didn't force him onto his back (Arroyo, Sell, Wilks) except for Ryan Thomas, who he armbarred.
Three of his four losses came via submission, but two of those were delivered by BJJ black belts (Chris Lytle, Ricardo Almeida), and the other two losses were from adept takedown artists (Brian Foster, Dong Hyun Kim).
His takedown and submission defense is his Achilles heel, and while John Howard is weak nowhere, I wouldn't call those areas his specialties.
I think we're all hoping Howard is as game to trade with Brown as he was against Thiago Alves. With bone-rending low kicks and tight Thai boxing, "Doomsday" is an exceptional stand-up artist.
It's mostly his strength and athleticism that makes him a threat with takedowns, where devastating ground-and-pound looms overhead. Though the majority of Howard's wins are via submission, they were all pre-UFC and against less-than-stellar competition.
When we factor in that Matt Brown has never lost by any method with the letters "K" or "O" in them, this leaves John Howard with a tough dilemma: Does he try to force the fight to the location where his opponent is weakest, like the intelligent tactician would? Or does he engage the lion in his most dangerous den, like the fans would like him to?
It's hard to say a fighter who has lost three straight has nothing to lose, but will the UFC cut Matt Brown for bouncing around from Matt Scanlon on the undercard to John Howard on the main? The pressure would seem to be resting on John Howard here. It doesn't take any insightful analysis to justify him as the favorite to win this fight, but he's encumbered by risks on all sides. There is no safe route.
It's also worth mentioning that Brown has trained under Jorge Gurgel for many years and is also spending time with Matt Hume at AMC Pankration, so rest assured that the holes in his game are slowly being reinforced.
This is another match-up on this card that doesn't really have any major implications on the divisional standings, but serves as a compelling litmus test for how each fighter is evolving. Howard's choice of strategy should dictate the outcome, and the more time he spends standing, the more Brown's chances of hitting the target grow.
My Prediction: Howard by decision
Gifs via Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com