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Mailbag: Alexander faces must-win

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports

Houston Alexander says he won't have a problem with people bothering him for tickets.

One of the banes of any athlete who happens to play in his or her hometown are family, friends and, worse, casual acquaintances, who beg for a couple of quality complimentary seats.

But Alexander, an Omaha, Neb., resident who is one of the stars on Wednesday's Ultimate Fight Night 15 card at the Omaha Civic Auditorium, says he's had no such problems.

Alexander is a disc jockey on Omaha's KOPW, 106.9 FM, and has learned how to dodge that problem easily.

"It might be hectic, but I'm used to things being hectic," said Alexander, who will try to end a two-fight losing streak when he meets jiu-jitsu expert Eric Schafer on the Spike TV card. "When you're a DJ, you have people asking you for free tickets and stuff all the time. But I just say no, because I don't have any tickets. I don't have to worry about that hassle, because I honestly don't have any."

But there is still going to be a large, and very vocal, crowd filling the auditorium hopeful of seeing a patented Alexander knockout. He emerged at UFC 71 last year with a brutal knockout of Keith Jardine, then followed it with an even more brutal stoppage of Alessio Sakara at UFC 75.

But Alexander was dominated by Thiago Silva at UFC 78 in November and his fight was stopped with Silva pounding him from the mount. That fight exposed the holes in his game on the ground, but he didn't figure to have such problems when he fought James Irvin on April 2.

Irvin is a standup fighter like Alexander and the bout promised to be an all-out slugfest.

Instead, it was over in a record-tying eight seconds, as Irvin conked Alexander on the chin with the first punch of the fight and ended it with a brief ground-and-pound.

After his wins over Jardine and Sakara, there were calls for Alexander to get a title shot. Now, there are many questioning why the UFC signed him to a recent long-term contract extension.

UFC president Dana White, who isn't shy about releasing a fighter, was adamant that Alexander needs to turn things around.

"There's no doubt about that," White said. "He needs a way. He desperately needs a win. Another loss and he's going to have to go out and start working his way back up to the UFC."

Alexander understands what he's up against, but he's as adamant as White that he feels no pressure. And though it would seem to have been a cruel matchmaking trick by Joe Silva, the UFC's vice president of talent relations, putting him in against a jiu-jitsu expert in a fight he absolutely must win, Alexander harbors no ill will.

He does a fairly good job of convincing you it's actually in his best interest.

"If this is a challenge from Joe to me, I thank him for it because I think it's a good thing for me," Alexander said. "And let me tell you something: I'm better at jiu-jitsu and wrestling than a lot of people think. I've seen his tapes and he is very good, but I believe I present him some unique problems just as he presents those to me."

Alexander's coach, Mick Doyle, wants him to keep a fast pace, which shouldn't be particularly hard to get Alexander to do.

Asking Alexander to come out hard is like encouraging Usain Bolt to run fast.

"My coach wants me to ratchet up the pressure and fight like I'm a 155-pounder in there," Alexander said. "That's what I'm going to try to do. To be honest with you, I'm going in there totally at peace and totally relaxed, because I know I've done all I can, I know I'm in good shape and I know I have a good plan. I just need to go out and execute."

With that, let's get to your questions and comments and my answers. My replies are in italics.

EVANS OR MACHIDA

My question is regarding Rashad Evans and Lyoto Machida. A lot of people are claiming Machida is the No. 1 contender for the UFC's light heavyweight title and are upset about Rashad getting the next shot. After taking a look at both of their records, I would argue for Rashad just based on UFC fights. Rashad has fought tough fighters and has two of the best knockouts in UFC history. Machida is a great competitor, but I feel that his win over Tito Ortiz shouldn't grant him a title shot. Yes, he keeps on winning, but Rashad has stopped three of his last five opponents. Machida will probably need one or two more wins and at least one of them should be a stoppage before he gets a shot.

Sachin Chaba

Toronto

Sachin, I think either man would be fine fighting for the title. There is nothing written anywhere that says there is an order. What you want is for the champion to fight the most qualified opponents possible. Both Evans and Machida are qualified. I would have had no problem had the UFC announced that Machida would be fighting Forrest Griffin for the belt next instead of Evans. They're both qualified and they'll both get shots, so I don't see an issue.


COUTURE HAS FORESIGHT

I believe Brock Lesnar is the reason why Randy Couture is fighting again in the first place. Couture clearly sees that there are few superstars in that weight division. Couture wants the best in the class and he sees Lesnar's massive potential. Since he can't fight Fedor Emelianenko in the UFC, Lesnar stands out as the future of the heavyweight division if he works hard enough for it.

Glenn Fancey

Whitby, Ontario

I agree that Lesnar is the UFC's future, as I wrote Aug. 10 in this column. However, I don't believe Couture came back for that reason. He saw the handwriting on the wall as far as the court case was concerned. He was tired of throwing money into what had to seem to him like an endless pit with no guarantee of success. Once he agreed to return, he had to accept who the UFC wanted him to fight. It needed a main event for UFC 91 on Nov. 15 and Couture-Lesnar gave it to them. By the way, as part of the settlement, the UFC gained the rights to Couture's image for its video game. It never had that before.


HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MESS

Didn't Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira win the UFC's interim heavyweight title by submitting Tim Sylvia earlier this year? If that is true, shouldn't Randy have to fight Nogueira before the title is handed back to him?

Dave

Windsor, Ill.

I think they've handled it the proper way, Dave. Nogueira beat Sylvia at UFC 81 to win the interim belt when Couture was in the midst of his legal battle with the UFC. Because it wasn't fair to the contenders to keep the belt tied up while the UFC was in court with Couture, it created the interim title so fighters would be able to have a shot at the belt. When Couture returned earlier this month, the UFC had long since planned a Dec. 27 bout between Frank Mir and Nogueira for the interim title. So by having Couture fight Lesnar and Mir fight Nogueira, they've essentially created a tournament. The first man to win two fights is the outright champion. And he'll have landed two significant paydays.


ELITE XC AND KIMBO

What do you think Elite XC is planning to do with Kimbo Slice after his Oct. 4 fight with Ken Shamrock? And do you think Shamrock can give him a tough fight?

Carlos Ibarra

Los Angeles

Elite XC and CBS officials are praying that Kimbo wins the fight in dramatic fashion. It's not a stretch to say that if Kimbo loses, it will spell the end of Elite XC. Elite XC may go under regardless, but a Kimbo loss would all but guarantee it. I think Shamrock could be competitive, even though he's lost five straight fights in the first round over the last three-plus years. Shamrock's has only had one win since Aug. 11, 2001, a period of more than seven years, and that came over Kimo Leopoldo, a fighter more washed up than him. The fact that Shamrock has a shot should tell you all you need to know about Kimbo's skills. I expect Kimbo to look bad early but eventually find a way to win by knockout. But I would not be totally shocked were Shamrock to pull it out.


AFFLICTION-GOLDEN BOY DEAL

Do you think the Affliction merger with Golden Boy will be good for Affliction and for mixed martial arts in general? I don't really care about the boxing matches, but if it keeps Fedor around and fighting in the U.S., I'm all for it.

Tyler Dewitt

Pittsburgh

They haven't merged, Tyler. They've formed a strategic partnership. I hope it works, because I'd love to see a legitimate competitor for the UFC develop. Competition is good and all that occurs in that scenario is better fights. The consumer wins. But I'm very skeptical. I don't think too many MMA fans are interested in watching the boxing matches, as you say, and I can guarantee you that boxing fans by and large don't care for MMA. And while Oscar De La Hoya's name and face is a big draw in boxing, I don't think it will help in the MMA field. Let's just say I have my doubts that this is the industry-changing announcement that Affliction COO Michael Cohen had promised.