Saturday, October 20th, Scottish welterweight prospect Ross Houston will be in action overseas on the Cage Warriors 98 card. He will be headlining the event against Stefano Paterno, with the Cage Warriors Welterweight Championship on the line. Houston (7-0) runs with an affiliate SBG Ireland gym, so that will give him some extra hype based on Conor McGregor’s representation of that camp. Let’s take a closer look at this prospect as this week’s “Prospect Spotlight.”
Submission Grappling: First and foremost, Houston is a submission grappler by trade and is known for his ability to secure wins on the mat. He is very well-versed in creating submission opportunities and finishing fights by submission. In the midst of fishing for submissions, he’s good at setting opponents up with decoys, getting them to bite on the decoy, adjusting and grabbing the submission from a different angle. Now, to be fair, as a pro, he has just three submission wins in seven fights, so he could be a tad more proficient, but his control on the mat dictates the fight and gives him convincing performances for the judges to evaluate, as all of his decisions are unanimous.
Size: For a welterweight, Houston has very good size, including his height and length. The 170-pounder is 6’2″ and long limbs, which allow him to keep the distance. He uses his length well, as he throws long kicks and punches that keep opponents at bey until he can find an angle for a takedown. His movement is also solid and you can tell the work he puts in with SBG Ireland has helped him continuously improve in that area. He will never be a guy that’s going to be overly feared for his on-the-feet game, but he’s certainly competent and improving.
Hand Placement: Though his size and movement on the feet are certainly solid, one thing that he needs to fix a bit is his hand placement. A lot of times, he keeps his hands very low, and though it has not bit him in the butt yet, the more he ups the level of competition he faces, the more of a danger it will be. That being said, it does seem like he keeps them low to force his opponent to come in on him so he can achieve takedowns more easily (more on that in a second). Because he’s not a world class wrestler, shooting on an opponent coming in hard is likely more attainable than shooting long on a double from a distance, even with his length. As he takes on more quality opponents, he will need to address the height of his hands as a defensive measure.
Ground Striking: Clearly, Houston has a Brazilian jiu-jitsu background because even though he’s very good on the ground, he fights more like a BJJ guy than a MMA guy. Too often times, he’s almost too methodical, trying to improve position using purely jiu-jitsu and not utilizing striking. American wrestlers are successful because they incorporate heavy ground-and-pound in the fights as a way for their opponent on the bottom to cover up and give up position more quickly. Not only that, but in some fights, he fishes for submissions for longer than he should have to because he doesn’t utilize ground-and-pound. For example: I watched him fish for a rear-naked choke for several minutes in one fight that did not come to fruition and he really didn’t throw many ground strikes. As important as BJJ is, it is not MMA. He needs to realize this, work it into his tool belt and utilize it. It would bring him better finishing success.
Solid UFC midcarder: It’s really hard to call prospects at this day and age. Long ago, a guy by the name of Conor McGregor came around while I was scouting prospects and I said because of his so-so grappling, the impressive striker would be a top-15 UFC fighter, but never be champion. Boy, was I off. With Houston, we definitely have a skilled fighter with a good ceiling. He does have a lot of improvements to make, too. So, this outlook is based on what I think he can be, rather than evidence I have for him now. He’s still young (which is a positive). I think he will be a guy that sticks around the UFC for a while. He will be a staple of the UK and Ireland cards that come there (or other European events). It doesn’t seem at this point he will be a top-25 fighter in the UFC welterweight division, an absolute shark tank, but he will pick up some wins and continue to build the reputation of the UK’s MMA scene.