There’s a certain amount of pride John Howard takes in being from Boston.
Pride in being the person who broke the nose of Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev in a sparring session years ago. Pride in working his way back to the UFC after a hiatus and being on the card in his hometown.
So outlasting Uriah Hall in their three-round middleweight bout at TD Garden Saturday night was special.
“I would’ve taken this fight for free,” Howard said. “I like to fight strikers because I love to go out there and bang. Uriah is the type of guy that is willing to have a war. He did surprise me with the takedowns and he’s very dynamic on his feet. Fighting in my hometown of Boston is a dream come true for me and I’m so thankful to the UFC for bringing me back.”
He fared better than Bridgewater native Joe Lauzon, who was stunned by Michael Johnson in a unanimous decision.
Coming in, Johnson said he knew what he was going up against. “Of course you’re always going to feel hostility,” Johnson said. “I felt it from the day I landed in Boston all the way up to the fight, and even after winning the fight.”
But he turned in what he considered to be the most dominant fight of his career
“Not just because of how I performed but who I performed against,” Johnson said. “This training camp was push, push, push, because I was the underdog from the moment we signed to fight Lauzon. I got booed at weigh-ins and that’s all the motivation I needed to come out here in his hometown and do it right. Joe is one of the guys I respected and wanted to fight from the time I got into the UFC. I knew he’d be willing to compete with me where the fight was tough. He brought out the best in me.”
Conor McGregor, the sport’s biggest Irish star, took in the ovation from a crowd that was ready to embrace him.
“The whole place was green,” he said.
But when he looked into the crowd, certain fans stuck out more than others.
“I walked by a full-blown leprechaun,” he said. “A full-blow leprechaun was standing right there. Then, I’m looking out there and I’m seeing more. There’s about five or six full-blown leprechauns out there.”
He took care of MaxHolloway with relative ease, earning a unanimous decision that upped his record to 14-2.
Once it was over, UFC president Dana White had some special guests he wanted McGregor to meet: Patriots owner Bob Kraft, Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck, and boxing great Oscar De La Hoya.
“These Boston people and the Irish-Americans were one of a kind,” he said. “We are a crazy nation.”
Siler one to watch
All Steven Siler did was check his timeline.
He was running through his tweets and saw a link to UFC president Dana White’s video preview of UFC Fight Night 26 at TD Garden Saturday night, so he clicked. There was nothing out of the ordinary about the rundown. Just a roll call of who to look for.
Which is why Siler, who was set to face veteran Mike Brown in a three-round featherweight bout, took notice.
“He named the main card,” Siler said. “Then in the mid-card, he named the first fight, the second fight, then he named Mike Brown and then skipped me and went to the next fight.”
So, Siler gave White a little Twitter nudge.
He tweeted, “@danawhite mentions brown not me, ill make sure he remembers me after aug 17th.”
Like that, he was on White’s radar. “I [expletive] love it,” White replied.
Knocking Brown out in 50 seconds Saturday night in all likelihood landed him on White’s permanent watch list.
St. Preux prevails
If he had a chance to land one of his sledgehammers, Ovince St. Preux knew the fight would be over. It didn’t matter who the opponent was.
He found his opening 2:04 into the first round of his light heavyweight bout with Cody Donovan after he reversed Donovan’s takedown and ended up on top, staring down his prey. Donovan tried to use his arms to cover his head, and St. Preux used his left hand like a brick-breaker. St. Preux pounded Donovan with seven brutal blows, sneaking around his guard with one, rocking him with another, and pummeling with the rest until the referee rushed in to stop the fight. “I knew if one punch landed I could win the fight,” St. Preux said . . . It took all of 58 seconds for James Vick to choke out Ramsey Nijem in their lightweight bout. “I expected a finish but not that quickly,” he said. “It was the greatest experience of my life.” . . . Known to hang out in the UFC offices in Las Vegas during the offseason, Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino shot over to the Garden after his team’s win over the Yankees. Shawn Thornton, Chandler Jones, LeGarrette Blount, Stevan Ridley, Michael Carter-Williams, and Avery Bradley were also in the crowd.