If there’s one thing that’s for certain in the world of mixed martial arts right now it’s that UFC Fight Night 15 is being slept on in a big, big way. So that’s why we’re going to start previewing the fights on the main card beginning today with Houston Alexander vs. Eric Schafer.
Going into this fight there is a lot to prove for both fighters. Houston Alexander is coming off two consecutive losses, one to James Irvin via superman punch and one to Thiago Silva via ground and pound. So far we’ve seen some good things and some bad things about Houston Alexander. Firstly, Alexander has good power and a lot of athleticism going for him. He proved that with knockout victories over Keith Jardine and Alessio Sakara. Those are very good attributes to have on your side. Secondly, he has absolutely zero ground game and a weak chin. Thiago Silva mounted him within a matter of minutes and pounded him out from the top and James Irvin knocked him out in eight seconds with a superman punch. These are not so great attributes. So while there is a lot to like about Houston Alexander, there’s also a lot to dislike.
Eric Schafer, on the other hand, is much more well rounded than Alexander is. He’s a BJJ black belt under Pedro Sauer. His wrestling is very good. And he’s been training kickboxing under Duke Roufus, one of America’s premiere kickboxing coaches. So all in all, he’s capable of handling the fight wherever it goes. His jiu jitsu is top notch, his wrestling is much better than average and his hands are more than serviceable should the fight stay on the feet. The problem with Schafer is that he is willing to sacrifice position to get the fight to the ground. He often pulls guard and brings his opponent down to the mat but leaves too much space in between him and his opponent so that his opponent can rain down ground and pound from the top. Michael Bisping and Stephan Bonnar both finished Schafer this way.
Obviously both fighters have their strengths and their weaknesses as any fighter does. But whose weakness will be more exposed during the fight? For my money, it’s Houston Alexander’s weakness. Alexander once told me in an interview that his ground game was “as good as anyone’s in the UFC.” Obviously he was just posturing. His ground game is terrible. I asked him if he worked jiu jitsu with a gi or no gi and he simply responded “I do it all.” The fact of the matter is that Alexander has a very rudimentary ground game. Schafer is light years ahead of him on the ground and will find a way to get it to the ground either with a takedown or by clinching and pulling guard to bring Alexander down on top of him. Once it hits the ground, it’s over. There’s only so much that someone at a white belt level can do against someone who is a black belt.
And I know, I know. “This is MMA. BJJ doesn’t always work while you’re getting punched in the face.” To an extent, that’s right. But I’d like to think that Schafer has learned from his mistakes and that if Alexander is on top that he won’t let him create space and pound him from the top. He should be able to utilize his guard and either sweep Alexander or throw up submissions from the bottom. If Schafer ends up on top? I don’t think we even have to go there.
The Houston Alexander bandwagon has lost a lot of passengers. Is the guy a great story? Sure. Anyone who’s a single father with a multitude of children, a full time fighter and a DJ is someone to be respected. A father who will give his extra kidney to his child, such as Houston did, is a feel good story. But feel good stories and heartwarming moments don’t matter inside the Octagon. It’s Houston’s lack of total MMA knowledge that will be his downfall in this fight. The weak ground game has hurt him before. It’s going to hurt him again. Look for Schafer to submit him in the second round.