Gerald Harris (left): Dave Mandel | Sherdog.com
In the middle of a three-year-long, 10-fight winning streak, Gerald Harris remains grounded in reality and common sense.
“Ain’t nobody called me out,” Harris told Sherdog.com, “so I ain’t made it yet.”
Harris will lock horns with Chute Boxe Academy representative Maiquel Jose Falcao Goncalves -- a former heavyweight they call “Big Rig” -- in a featured middleweight matchup at UFC 123 “Rampage vs. Machida” on Saturday at The Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Mich. His lengthy tear notwithstanding, Harris, a 31-year-old International Fight League veteran, understands how fickle and fleeting success can be in mixed martial arts.
“I don’t really consider it momentum,” he said. “After every fight, I celebrate that night and I feel like I’m back at 0-0. It’s very good to be 3-0 in the UFC, but if you look back and rest on that, you can just as easily be 0-3.”
Harris has finished seven consecutive foes, five of them inside one round, but the Tulsa, Okla., native guards himself against overconfidence -- a flaw that has led to the downfall of many.
“You ain’t going to catch me that way,” said Harris, whose knockout slam against Dave Branch at UFC 116 in July landed him on ESPN’s Sportscenter. “I believe in myself, but I’ve never been overconfident. That can definitely be dangerous. It can be a good thing for some people, but I’m not that kind of guy.”
A qualifier on Season 7 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Harris has not tasted official defeat -- he lost to eventual winner Amir Sadollah on the Spike TV reality show -- since he suffered back-to-back setbacks to Fabio Leopoldo and Benji Radach inside the IFL in 2007. He credits trainer Peppe Johnson at the Ghost Dog gym with his rise to prominence.
“He’s molded me from a wrestler into an MMA fighter,” said Harris, who also trains at the Grudge Training Center in Colorado. “I’ve been with him ever since I left “The Ultimate Fighter.”
In Goncalves, he faces a relative unknown outside of Brazil. The Chute Boxe brute has won seven fights in a row and stopped Wendres Carlos da Silva on first-round punches under the Arena Gold Fights banner four months ago in Brazil. Goncalves has secured 21 of his 25 career wins by knockout or technical knockout.
“He’s extremely tough,” Harris said. “He’s a knockout artist. He has over 20 knockouts. Anybody that has that many knockouts in this sport is well-respected. We know what we’re getting ourselves into.”
Goncalves sports 23 first-round finishes on his resume, including 12-, 15-, 42- and 52-second victories. In 29 professional appearances, he has gone the distance only once. Potent as Goncalves’ stand-up attack may be, Harris does not view the Brazilian as a one-dimensional fighter.
“He’s good at everything,” he said. “He’s never been submitted. He’s got good jiu-jitsu and muay Thai. We don’t know what the biggest threat is. We know what the obvious threat is.”
Still, Harris figures to have an advantage on the ground. He wrestled collegiately at Cleveland State University, where he was a three-time NCAA qualifier, and has become feared for his powerful slams and takedowns. Harris likes the idea of flying under the radar in the middleweight division, where his name rarely receives mention when talk turns to potential contenders.
“It’s all good,” he said. “Everybody’s goal is a title shot. My goal is just to work towards that.”