Updated: June 26, 2011, 10:44 AM ET

Howard hopes win helps land fight with 'Rumble'

By Franklin McNeil

Martin McNeil for ESPN.comJohn Howard is ready to 'Rumble' but he'll have to get past Matt Brown first.

PITTSBURGH -- Putting an end to his two-fight skid is high on John Howard's to-do list. He gets a chance to snap it tonight against fellow welterweight Matt Brown at UFC on Versus 4. But handing Brown his fourth loss in a row isn't what motivates Howard. Howard is eager to fight; he has a bone to pick, but it ain't with Brown.

The man Howard wants to get his hands on is Anthony Johnson. And the sooner he gets Johnson, the better. A victory over Brown will go a long way toward helping Howard land a fight with Johnson -- and that's all the motivation Howard needs.

"I don't like that kid [Johnson] and he doesn't like me," Howard told ESPN.com. "It's hard to be in the same room with him. Me and that kid have some serious problems.

"Hopefully, we can fight in the UFC, but if it doesn't happen in UFC, it's going to be a street fight because me and that kid have some personal issues. I hope it happens in UFC."

According to Howard, the problem stems from a name-calling incident several months ago -- an incident in which Howard feels Johnson went too far.

"He called me a cotton-picker. I took that real personal," Howard said. "That's something you don't say to me. Me being African-American [Johnson is as well], you don't go that far. This will get settled."

Despite the war of words, Howard won't allow it to interfere with his plans for Brown. There is too much riding on a victory.

"I have to get through Matt Brown," Howard said. "If everything works well my way, then I will fight Anthony Johnson next.

"I'm a professional at the end of the day. I have to look past that, knowing I will get to deal with [him] at a later date. He's going to get dealt with, either way."

Morecraft moves past Struve debacle

Martin McNeil for ESPN.comBouncing back: Christian Morecraft wants to put his loss to Stefan Struve behind him for good.

The UFC 117 loss to Stefan Struve still tugs at Christian Morecraft, despite his bounce-back win over Sean McCorkle in March.

But he might finally be able to put that setback behind him, if all goes according to plan.

Morecraft faces undefeated heavyweight Matt Mitrione, but he will be a more refined fighter than the one Struve defeated.

"It's very important [to hand Mitrione his first loss]," Morecraft said. "It's important to me and my team, how hard we've worked. I was dominating my fight with Stefan Struve. But my stand-up wasn't close to what it is now.

"I've filled that divot in my game, and can't wait to unleash it on somebody."

Franklin McNeil covers MMA and boxing for ESPN.com. He also appears regularly on "MMA Live," which airs on ESPN2. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/Franklin_McNeil.


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