Mixed martial arts is the fastest growing sport in the world. It garners more attention and new fans daily. The emergence of so many new athletes sometimes makes it hard for fans to notice some of the fighters on the verge of making it to the next level. MMAWeekly.com takes you deep inside the sport and presents you with some of the upcoming New Blood.
KEY VICTORIES: Daniel Roberts and Chris Wilson
It used to be that once you hit the roster of the UFC, you were a known entity in MMA. But the promotion is now tipping past the mark of 30 events per year, and a lot of fighters are getting lost in the undercard shuffle with a deck of 200-plus fighters stacked against them.
One fighter that could have found himself in just such a situation, but has worked hard to distinguish himself, is John “Doomsday” Howard.
After hitting a couple bumps in the middle of his professional road—namely fellow UFC athletes Nick Catone and Dan Miller—prior to his arrival in the UFC, Howard righted the ship with three straight wins that landed him in the Octagon.
The 27-year-old Muay Thai fighter was handed a tough fight right out of the gate, earning a split decision over former Team Quest striker Chris Wilson. A second split decision victory, over Tamdan McCrory, put Howard in the hole a bit, trying to fight his way off the preliminary bout sheet. But he’s adamant about not sacrificing wins for excitement.
“I’m not looking for highlight reels, I’m looking to win,” he told MMAWeekly.com.
He may not have been trying to force it, but he emerged in a big way in his next two fights. He knocked out Dennis Hallman at The Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale last December, and was then poised for a main card throwdown with Anthony Johnson at the UFC’s debut event on Versus in March.
Johnson had to withdraw due to surgery, leaving Howard with a last minute replacement—undefeated Daniel Roberts—and a demotion to the prelims.
Doomsday was put on his back early, but bided his time, reversing position. Standing in Roberts’ guard, Howard dropped a bomb on the UFC newcomer, knocking him out cold.
The finish earned him Knockout of the Night honors (he was part of the Fight of the Night honors when he defeated Wilson, which likely will propel him back to the main card on his next fight.
“It’s a dream to fight in the UFC, and it’s a dream to succeed in the UFC,” said Howard. “It’s been seven years that I’ve been fighting and finally I made it to the big show. Now I’m just proving my worth.”
But proving his worth isn’t the ultimate goal of the heavy handed Bostonian. Having recently signed a new contract with the UFC, he’s got loftier plans in his sights.
“By the end of the year … hopefully, I’ll be in title contention or at least top five in the welterweight division.”
KEY VICTORIES: Joe Pearson
Joao “Pitbull” Herdy is an easy fighter to have overlooked recently, mainly because he hasn’t had a fight in more than three years. Like many Brazilian-born mixed martial artists, Herdy got his start via Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He began training with respected jiu-jitsu master Marcello Monteiro at 13 years of age, earning his black belt before he turned 20 years old.
Herdy had his first jiu-jitsu super fight just a year after he began training, winning by armbar. Bitten by the competition bug, he had dreams of fighting in the UFC. He moved to the United States at age 15, training in Indianapolis.
Two short years later he fought his first MMA fight, reeling off three amateur victories by way of submission. That same year, 2004, he turned pro. His only loss thus far was his first bout as a professional, losing to Brian Gerahty, a fighter who had nearly 20 bouts under his belt before the two fought.
After his initial stumble, Herdy quickly rose up the ranks on the midwest circuit. He won five straight, including a 2:45 TKO victory over WEC and Pride veteran Joe Pearson at Iron heart Crown. He seemed destined for a showdown with the region’s kingpin, Miguel Torres.
But just as he was working toward a shot at Torres, Herdy’s visa expired, returning him home to Brazil, and Torres was snagged up by the WEC.
Herdy has now made his way back to Indianapolis with Monteiro and plans to begin fighting again in June. Though his dream was “to be the best in the UFC,” Herdy will likely fight as a featherweight.
If he can manage a couple of wins upon his return to the midwest circuit, don’t be surprised if the 23-year-old submission wizard is quickly gobbled up by the WEC.