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Gerald Harris Expecting Fireworks From Brazilian Newcomer at UFC 123

When Gerald Harris (17-2) looks at Maiquel Falcao (25-3) -- the Brazilian Chute Boxe product who he'll welcome to the Octagon at UFC 123 this Saturday -- what he sees is a fighter who is, in his words, "kind of the opposite of me."

"He's coming in there to take your head off, not a lot of technique involved," Harris told MMA Fighting. "His main strength is trying to stand up and beat you down."

It just so happens that Harris' strength is taking guys like that down, often with destructive results. The best example of that came in his last fight at UFC 116, where Harris knocked fellow middleweight Dave Branch out cold with a third-round slam. The finish earned him Knockout of the Night honors, and even landed him on Sportscenter -- a distinction that still defines him to many fans.

"They just call me 'the dude that slammed that dude,'" said Harris. "That's all they say. 'Hey, you're the guy who slammed that guy on ESPN!' It's funny. I love having moments where people remember. I think it's great for the sport. It helps develop some new fans, because some people who saw it didn't know what MMA was before that. If I can drag in a couple new fans, I love it."

It's fitting that the slam should be Harris' claim to fame. When he first started in MMA, it was just about the only offensive move he had. After coming from a college wrestling background he got into MMA as an essentially self-trained high school teacher looking to make some extra cash on the side.

"People don't know, when I fought in the IFL, when I fought [Fabio] Leopoldo, I was honestly training in my garage," Harris said. "I had a wrestling mat and a heavy bag. My little brother would do drills with me. I coached wrestling at the high school, but all I really had was a gym in my garage. I didn't have a team or anything. I was just training by myself and showing up to fights. That's how I got by."

But in the IFL, where Harris got his first exposure on the national stage, it simply wasn't enough. After dropping a close split decision to Leopoldo, he suffered a first-round TKO against Benji Radach.

"When I took two losses in a row I thought, do I quit or do I go and do this full-time? I decided to go full-time, because the school I was working at didn't have any openings for the next year. They kind of told me I wouldn't have a job, so I just went full-time into fighting."

If he'd been offered a job teaching, Harris has no problem admitting now, he probably never would have made it onto "The Ultimate Fighter" or, after lobbying Dana White on a radio show, into the UFC.

The fact that he wasn't able to go directly from the reality show to a UFC contract at first seemed like a minor travesty, but now it feels like the best possible timing, Harris said.

"I wasn't ready. I thought I was ready. I thought it was my big break. I had a whole different outlook on it. ... It's easy to watch and say, 'Oh, I could do that.' But you get your butt in there and it's totally different. I do it still. I watch NBA games all the time, saying, 'Oh, I wouldn't miss a lay-up.' It's similar to that. It's just that, people don't see all the stuff we go through just to get to that moment."

Now Harris is riding a three-fight win streak in the UFC, and facing an experienced opponent who's trying to prove himself in the Octagon. If there's anyone who knows what that's like, it's Harris, who said he knew his first two fights for the organization were both win-or-go-home situations.

That has a way of instilling a certain desperation in some fighters, and Harris is expecting that it won't dampen the Brazilian's ferocity any.

"[Falcao] is definitely a fighter. I'm just surprised he wasn't in the UFC a long time ago," said Harris. "I know he's going to be fighting to stay in the UFC. I'm just going the have to fight him back."

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