Two of the UFC's most exciting heavyweight prospects will duke it out this Wednesday night (February 15, 2012) as Dave Herman takes on Stefan Struve in the co-main event of UFC on Fuel TV: "Sanchez vs. Ellenberger" in Omaha, Nebraska.
Dave Herman is a tremendous athletic specimen, destroying everyone in his path in the early stages of his career without ever taking MMA seriously. After receiving a wake-up call, he's now training at Dan Henderson's Team Quest and he was able to take home a "Fight of the Night" bonus in his victorious UFC debut. He's hoping to prove he belongs against one of the UFC's most intriguing heavyweight talents in Struve.
Stefan Struve, at 6'11, is by far the tallest man in the UFC. It's taken some time, but he's finally begun to pack on some muscle to his lanky frame and utilize his reach in fights, culminating in the thrilling submission of Pat Barry in his last fight. He's hoping to keep the momentum alive against "Pee-Wee" and potentially avenge some of earlier losses in the UFC.
Will Herman be able to bring "The Skyscraper" crashing down? Can Struve become a player in the heavyweight division? How does each talented young heavyweight secure a victory on Wednesday night?
Let's find out:
Record: 21-2 overall, 1-0 in the UFC
Key Wins: Jon Olaf Einemo (UFC 131), Ron Waterman (EliteXC: Return of the King), Yoshiro Nakao (WVR: Soul of Fight)
Key Losses: Choi Mu Bae (Sengoku no Ran 2009)
How he got here: Dave Herman made a name for himself by becoming one of MMA's top heavyweight prospects despite not taking the sport seriously or training hard for much of the first three years he competed. "Pee Wee" burst onto the scene in EliteXC, scoring three straight knockouts of MMA veterans Mario Rinaldi, Kerry Schall and Ron Waterman all inside the first six minutes.
Herman took his "no-train" attitude to Japan where he would lose to Choi Mu Bae after gassing early in the second round. The midwestern fighter would then take his game back stateside where he would go under contract with Bellator and become embroiled in a power struggle for his contract after failing to receive a second fight from the promotion for over a year.
Now training out of Team Quest, Herman made his UFC debut last summer against Jon Olav Einemo, winning "Fight of the Night" honors and scoring a second round TKO. After some drama with the Texas State Athletic Commission prevented him from fighting Mike Russow, he's finally back and ready to take on another serious challenger in Stefan Struve.
How he gets it done: Herman's has displayed a terrific chin and significant power in his strikes throughout much of his career, but he really needs to shore up his defenses and his technique if he wants to take it to the next level.
He ate a ton of punches against Einemo and that's just not something he can afford to do against a more accomplished stand-up fighter in Struve. His opponent will be looking to turn this into more of a technical kickboxing fight so if Herman really wants to give himself a big advantage, he needs to break this fight down into the purest elements of combat, force Struve to brawl with him.
Expect Herman to move forward aggressively, trying to get inside the range of Struve's jab while looking to land big bombs. He's got a strong enough chin to absorb big shots to get inside and land some of his own. He absolutely has to get inside to win, as breaking through Struve's jab and blasting him in the face with a big right hand is how he's been defeated all three times in his UFC career.
Record: 22-5 overall, 6-3 in the UFC
How he got here: Stefan Struve cut his teeth on the local European circuit, testing himself against many of the toughest guys in circulation at the time. Due to his ridiculous height, he had to develop a strong ground game as his opponents were rather easily able to put him on his back.
He made his UFC debut in early 2009, but was completely unprepared for the wrecking machine that was Junior dos Santos, losing via first round technical knockout.
Since the loss in his promotional debut, Struve has gone 6-2 in the promotion. The young Dutchman has steadily progressed and added some bulk to his frame. He's still still relatively wet behind the ears, but has tons of time to develop his craft as long as he can protect his chin.
Of Struve's 21 career victories, only one has been a decision. His two fights against Christian Morecraft and Sean McCorkle both underscored what he's all about as a mixed martial artist: Absorbing punishment or being in bad positions and then roaring back in crowd-pleasing fashion. Of course this backfired against Travis Browne at UFC 130 when "The Skyscraper" got toppled after an ill-advised flying knee attempt directly into the big right hand of his opponent.
He bounced back in his last fight against Pat Barry, locking in a triangle choke and surviving a huge powerbomb attempt before forcing the tap and winning "Submission of the Night" honors. In Dave Herman, this will be a battle of two of the best prospects in the UFC right now.
How he gets it done: Struve has slowly showcased an improved use of his lengthy 84 inch reach (the second longest in the UFC) throughout his MMA career. While his defenses once were a turnstyle for brawlers to get inside and nail him with big power, he's been doing a much better job at keeping his opponents at a distance.
He's going to have to continue to progress and showcase technique in his fight with Dave Herman, perhaps something similar to his last fight against Pat Barry, except a tad more aggressive when he sees an opening. Herman tends to leave himself exposed and get off balance when he throws his big power strikes so those are perfect opportunities to side-step a blow and land a crushing shot of his own.
Footwork, proper use of kicks and the jab will be key for Struve if he wants to continue to progress and showcase his evolution as a fighter.
If all else fails and Herman is able to get inside, the Dutchman has to resist the urge to brawl and either back away or clinch and try to take the fight to the ground. Struve has the technique and talent on the canvas to control and potentially even submit Herman, but he should likely avoid being stuck on bottom as all the skill in the world can't protect you if you're eating big ground and pound strikes.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight is whether Dave Herman can draw Stefan Struve into a brawl. Herman wants to slug it out where he has a big advantage in both power and ability to take a shot. Struve has been drawn into these types of fights before with Paul Buentello, Christian Morecraft and Roy Nelson and he's been dropped or severely hurt in all three of those fights.
Struve wants to utilize proper technique in this fight, which will help him compliment his natural advantages as a longer fighter but all that technique goes out the window when you have a slugfest. Whether or not Herman can force Struve to go back to his natural instincts as a fighter will be a really important factor in how this bout turns out.
Bottom Line: This fight has all the makings of a very entertaining stand-up battle. Stefan Struve doesn't usually go to the ground much unless he was already on the ground from being hurt or if his opponents take him down so as long as Herman doesn't shoot in, I expect up to three rounds of heavyweight stand-up action. If it's a brawl, it'll be a tremendous crowd-pleaser while if it's a more technical battle, it'll be slightly less so, with Herman getting very frustrated. Either way, this fight should feature some very exciting exchanges on the feet and you should be ready for either man to get knocked out.
Who will come out on top at UFC on Fuel TV: "Sanchez vs. Ellenberger?" Tell us your predictions in the comments below!