John Howard vs. Siya Bahadurzada

Following a dominant victory over Siyar Bahadurzada at UFC 168, John “Doomsday” Howard continues to climb the rankings since returning to the UFC back in August of 2013. With a career resurgence and an ever-improving skill set, “Doomsday” is highly focused and motivated on marching towards the title in his second campaign with the worlds biggest MMA promotion.

ProMMANow caught up with Howard earlier this week to recap his victory over Siyar, his plans for becoming the first UFC champion out of Massachusetts and what MMA fans can expect from the Boston powerhouse in 2014.

*Question from ProMMA’s Kinch in bold.

*Answers from Howard are italicized.

Congrats on the dominant win over Siyar, I know you were looking for a second round KO, but it was still a dominant victory. How happy are you with your performance?

“I’m really happy man, it is my first unanimous decision in the UFC, so I’m really excited. Usually when I get the decision it’s split, so I’m glad for that. It was a good fight though man, I was happy with my performance and I know he is a great up-and-comer. I didn’t even know I was the underdog until I got to Vegas, I was shocked about that a little bit though.”

In our previous conversations, you mentioned your cardio was a big focus for this camp. You were able to push the pace and Siyar began to look pretty desperate later in the fight. When in the fight do you think the pace really began to effect Siyar and break him down?

“I think it was the second round. I think I shocked him with how good my Muay Thai was, I’m the first person to back him up in a fight, he doesn’t get backed up ever so I think he respected my striking. When he threw a low kick and I checked it, I think he was shocked because not too many guys check kicks in the UFC. So when he threw a really hard kick I did what’s called a ‘power check’ and after that check he stumbled back and looked shocked. That’s the thing with the power check, I was letting him know he can’t kick me for free all night, if he was going to kick, I was going to make him pay for it.

Your Muay Thai was on point and I felt you got the better of the exchanges. What did you work on most in the stand up department in preparing for Siyar?

“I worked mostly on sharpening my Muay Thai and my boxing. I knew Siyar was a counter fighter, so my plan wasn’t to go in there with lots of combinations and trade with him, I wanted to get in and get out and use my speed. We knew that he was a hard hitter but we also knew I was faster, that’s why I was able to slip most of his punches and get my head out of the way with my speed ability, so that was the plan. We knew we didn’t want to get into slug match with him because the dude has a hard head, he can take a punch. I landed my left hook and he was still standing and I was shocked, usually when I land that hook they go out and he ate like two or three of them, so I was really surprised.

You certainly did land a few big left hooks on him and at one point he appeared to be hurt, did you sense he was in trouble any point in the fight?

“I thought he might have been but the thing is, I have seen all of his fights and even when he gets hurt he comes right back with a hard right hand and knocks people out, so I didn’t want to risk it and get caught rushing in. We knew he wanted to get into a slugfest, so I wanted to be smarter and faster and that’s what we did, I wanted to use my technique and speed against him.”

Siyar also landed a few heavy shots in the first round, was his power what you had expected and did any of those shots affect you?

“His power was definitely what I expected, he hits hard like a heavyweight. He caught me in the back of the head with a left hand and I was shocked at how powerful he was. After he did that I was like alright, I better keep my hands up and deliver the better shots and I was trying to slip punches. That’s why I worked on my head movement a lot for this fight because when he swings, he swings for devastation so I had to make sure my head wasn’t there.”

You mentioned in a post-fight interview that you were very happy about being able to stand and trade with a K-1 Grand Prix winner like Siyar. What was going through your mind when you were getting the better of the striking exchanges?

“That my Muay Thai striking had improved a whole lot and that I could be considered as one of the best strikers in the welterweight division. I am definitely not number one, but I feel like I’m three or four with my Muay Thai and I think that makes me a really dangerous striker. Not many guys are willing to stand and trade with Siyar and I did, so I’m really proud of myself.”

As you mentioned, you were the first guy to really back Siyar up in a fight, do you think he  was respecting your power or was he looking to counter strike in your opinion?

“I think he respected my power and that I was moving forward and not being scared of him. Usually guys don’t do that because they are scared of his hands, but I was doing it because my head movement was too fast and my speed would get the best of him. I think he respected that after I touched him a few times, I think it shocked him ’cause he thought that when I hit him, it wouldn’t rock him. So after he felt my power I knew he would respect my hands.

Your grappling was also in prime form for this bout, you were attacking with submissions and you were able to control him with relative ease landing some big ground and pound. Did you feel you would have that much of an advantage in the clinch and on the ground?

“I really did, I know he has been training with some great guys at Blackzilians and some great jiujitsu guys, but I’ve been working hard on my grappling man. People don’t know it, but I have six submissions on my MMA record and people know me as a striker, but back in the day I was a submission artist and I fell in love with striking later on. I felt my ground game would be better and that I could control him on the ground, but I was surprised that I couldn’t finish him. So I couldn’t get the finish on the ground but I was dominant from mount, side mount and back mount.”

The biggest highlight of the fight in my opinion was the big slam, it looked to me like an old-school WWE ‘death valley driver.’ You picked him up and walked him over to your corner before slamming him, was it just the position that prompted you to scoop him up like that?

“Yea it was the position, he was attacking with a kimura because he knew I was trying to take him down, but when he attacked with it he thought I was going to reverse the kimura. So instead of reversing him I decided to pick him up and dump him on his ass to give him a reality check. He had too much of his weight on me and I’m a strong guy, I lift guys that are two-hundred plus in training, so someone my size ain’t no problem. Usually I won’t go for a big slam like that unless I get the position but that was so perfect, he couldn’t get away from it. It was the same thing I did to Daniel Roberts and Tamdon McCrory, when I get the position I don’t care how big you are, I’m slamming you.”

Siyar seemed to taunt you on in the third and you just stepped back and taunted him in return,  tell me what you were thinking at that point?

“I knew what he was trying to do, he was trying to get into my head but I’m too smart for that. He wanted to taunt me so I taunted him back like come on,  you want me to rush in and get caught, meet me halfway and lets bang it out. I think he did that because he was absolutely desperate, he thought he could out strike me and I knew we were equals so I think that affected him.”

There was a little controversy with this fight regarding what many think was a fart that got televised. At first I thought it was just a noise from you guys moving on one of the logos on the matt, but apparently it was a fart. Who was the culprit and what were thinking when it happened?

“Here’s the thing, when the fart happened it was actually from a cameraman, it was cameraman number four who farted. I knew I didn’t fart and Siyar wasn’t claiming responsibility, so I was like ‘if it wasn’t me it had to be him,’ but we found out it was the cameraman. It was loud enough for the for the microphones to pick it up but we didn’t even hear it in the fight.”

UFC veteran Jorge Rivera was in your corner for this fight and you mentioned that you and Jorge will be working together from now on. Tell me about that relationship? 

“Yea man, my relationship with Jorge is awesome. I had asked him to help me with my last fight because he is a big 185’er, so he helped me get ready for Uriah Hall. Ever since then he has been involved with my camp and my fights, so he has been a really positive part of my coaching staff. The guy is a UFC veteran and having him in my corner is awesome, and people don’t know this but Jorge is one of the guys I looked up to throughout my career because he is one of the first guys from Boston to fight in the UFC. Before Kenny Florian and Joe Lauzon it was Jorge Rivera, and without Jorge none of us would have this opportunity. He knows what it’s like to be in there so when certain situations arise, he gives me great advice and he’s the one I listen to.”

You also mentioned taking over New England MMA with Jorge in the near future, give me the scoop on that?

“We’re trying to get a big team together. The problem up here in New England is that there are a ton of teams up here and we should all be training with each other, but instead we are all training against each other. Guys are going to Miami to train at Blackzilians to get a different look from different training partners, but we already have so much talent in New England and Massachusetts, so I want to bring everyone together. Between Mass and Rhode Island we have boxing champions, kickboxing champions, Muay Thai champions and jiujitsu champions, we have some of the best talent but we need to bring it all together. I want to see us all working together and help each other become beasts.”

How many more impressive wins do you feel you need before you step into the title race?

“I think I need two or three more fights to get into title contention. With GSP leaving the UFC for a while, the field has opened up and I think I can be one of the best, if not the best and get the title. I want to fight again in April hopefully in Las Vegas, I love fighting in Vegas because the people are awesome, the fans are awesome and everything is so convenient. So I think April is the next card in Vegas and I am putting it out there that I want to be on that card. I wanted to fight on the February 22nd card with Ronda but that isn’t going to happen, so I want to fight in Vegas in April. I want to fight as soon as possible and as much as possible because I know I need to stay active if I want to eventually fight for the belt.”

What did you think of Anderson Silva breaking his leg in the main event?

“Whoa man, that was sad, Silva is a legend and a hero. For him to break his leg like that and then ask the doctor when he can fight shows what a true champion he is, it’s awesome. I personally think he should retire with his legacy and all that he has accomplished, but if he wants to come back I will support him. I’ve watched his entire career and I’ve been a big fan, especially being a Muay Thai fighter myself, he has some of the best striking in the world. I think he is awesome and I think he’s done enough for the sport so he should probably relax and enjoy his life, but if he wants to come back it would be awesome too. It was hard to watch a legend like him lose like that, it was so crazy and so unreal.”

What is next for Doomsday? If April is when you want to get back into the cage,  is there any match-ups you are looking for specifically?

“Not really, I’ll fight whoever they put in front of me. I’m not into calling people out or anything, I’m just chasing the title. Like I said, with GSP leaving it’s basically an open title so whoever gets that title first is the person I’m going to call out. Besides that, I’m not really thinking about who, I’m just thinking about the title.”

What can your fans expect to see from you going into 2014?

“Domination, plan on seeing me taking over the welterweight division. I’ve got some work to do but I think as I continue to show my improved skills people are going to start watching me now. It’s serious man, I am a totally new ‘Doomsday.’ I’ve been improving my wrestling, my grappling, and my striking has become a lot more technical. I had to stay sharp in this fight because Siyar is such a good striker, but I think in my next fight I will be able to really open up, so just be on the lookout. As always, here comes the Doom!”

Be sure to follow “Doomsday” on Twitter @JohnDoomsday!

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