The Match Up:
Ever-grizzled and eminently likeable for a career that's been defined by sheer heart, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is clearly in the twilight of his fighting life, particularly with protege/stablemate Junior Dos Santos holding the heavyweight belt. But the old dog is still a fan favorite, and in Brazil, he's as beloved as any fighter given his who's-who list of opponents and memorable wars.
A mid-level prospect with athleticism to go along with some gaping holes in his game, Dave Herman has a huge opportunity tonight (Oct. 13, 2012) at UFC 153 to right the technical wrongs that exposed him against Stefan Struve and Roy Nelson. A smallish heavyweight at about 235 pounds, Herman faces an opponent whose brilliant jiu-jitsu may force him into a standup game for fear of the ever-slick Nogueira ground game.
It's doubtful Nogueira will have any letdowns fighting a low-level foe like Herman, as he's performing in front of his countrymen and looked great against a fairly similar style in Brendan Schaub, another young prospect who, like Herman probably will, opted to stand. Herman has a tendency to let his technique erode and swing wildly, as well as veering off-balance and keeping his chin way too high, somewhat the less-exotic but far more fundamentally sound Nelson made him pay brutally for. Nogueira's boxing remains as crisp as ever, and while he's not a massive one-shot hitter, he places punches very, and picks his spots with a veteran's savvy. Conditioning is likely to be a factor if it goes past one, and on that score, you've got to favor Nog, especially as Herman will be fighting on enemy turf and this is early the most important match of his career.
Showdowns of an aging ex-champ and a prospect are always intriguing. While Nog has clearly seen better days, he's still a wily veteran with a ton of experience, and he can always pull guard as a fallback position, where his mat work should be enough to neutralize Herman at worst, and possibly submit him. Herman's athletically gifted but still seems to make a lot of technical mistakes, and as a wrestler, shooting in and taking Nog down isn't a good strategy - Herman will be forced to work on the feet, where Nog's better accuracy and basic one-twos, along with a busy pace, will wear the younger man down en route to a second-round submission.
Nogueira via submission in round two
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the main card bouts on fight night (Sat., Oct. 13, 2012), which is slated to air at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view (PPV). The latest quick updates of the live action will begin to flow earlier than that around 6:45 p.m. ET with the "Prelims" match-ups on Facebook and FX.
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Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst.