Two of the UFC's most intriguing heavyweights will meet this Saturday night (May 26, 2012) as The Ultimate Fighter season 10 winner Roy Nelson takes on Dave Herman on the UFC 146 main card in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Nelson was on the verge of title contention before losing three of his last four fights to three of the best heavyweights in the UFC today. He's received criticism about his weight and even teased dropping down to 205 pounds, but he'll be battling at his traditional weight this weekend.
Dave Herman is a fighter that is always brought up when discussing heavyweight athleticism and potential, now he's just got to realize it. "Pee-Wee" has moved his training camp to Team Quest with Dan Henderson but that didn't help him in his last fight, a second round TKO defeat at the hands of Stefan Struve. He took some flack for his attitude and appearance by Dana White and he'll need to show he's taking things seriously this time around.
Will "Big Country" bring the pain against Herman? Can "Pee-Wee" realize his potential against perhaps his toughest test to date? What's the key to victory for both men this weekend?
Let's find out:
Record: 16-7 overall, 3-3 in the UFC
How he got here: Roy Nelson made his mark outside the UFC, most notably as the inaugural IFL heavyweight champion. After defending the strap twice, the promotion folded and "Big Country" stepped in on 10 day's notice to take on former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski under the Elite XC banner. Nelson was in control of the bout but a horrible stand-up ruined his night and allowed Arlovski to score a knockout victory.
The beer-bellied brawler would redeem himself on TUF 10, easily grappling his way to the finale where he would blast Brendan Schaub in the first round of the championship fight to win the show's title. He followed it up by taking out "The Skyscraper" Stefan Struve with another first round knockout.
Nelson earned a number one contender fight with Junior dos Santos at UFC 117 for his efforts and would give his best Homer Simpson impression, absorbing enough punishment in three rounds to baffle physicists. After losing a unanimous decision to "Cigano," he would eventually fight former UFC champion and friend Frank Mir at UFC 130 this past summer but would get physically dominated.
"Big Country" bounced back with a third round technical knockout of the legendary Mirko Filipovic at UFC 137, but he was brought back down to Earth against Fabricio Werdum, enduring some serious punishment over the course of three rounds. Now the big man could be fighting for his job against Herman.
How he gets it done: The most important thing of all for the Las Vegas native is to get inside. Roy Nelson has a big overhand right which he throws with great force, but he first must close the distance whether it be simply utilizing decent footwork or actually exploding forward with that lunging attack he's developed.
Footwork will be key. If Nelson can maneuver Herman towards the fence, he can lunge forward with a hook and then back away before being trapped in a clinch. If he can connect flush, "Pee-Wee" could be going to sleep.
Herman loves to brawl, which could play right into Nelson's wheelhouse. If "Big Country" can secure a takedown, he should definitely go for it. He's got a very underrated ground game and while he's not much for winning via submission, his ground skills should be more than enough to control Herman on the ground and allow him free reign to land strikes or at least smother him by forcing the Team Quest fighter to carry his weight for extended periods of time.
If Nelson can wear Herman out from top position, it's unlikely "Pee-Wee" will be able to last the full three rounds.
Record: 21-3 overall, 1-1 in the UFC
Key Losses: Stefan Struve (UFC on Fuel TV)
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 returned earlier this year against Stefan Struve, but was overwhelmed in the second round and stopped via strikes on the ground.
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 on the ground against Struve and that's just not something he can afford to do against someone with some nasty one-punch KO power like Nelson. Herman has to throw hard without leaving himself exposed.
If Herman is too reckless, he could leave himself wide open for a huge overhand right or he could even find himself way too off balance and easily taken down. He can't afford to be on bottom against Nelson where he'll likely be absorbing some heavy ground strikes and suffocating top control.
Expect Herman to move forward aggressively while looking to land big bombs. He's got a strong enough chin to absorb some shots land some of his own. This could simply come down to who has a stronger chin and who has a better gas tank.
Fight X-Factor: There are a few key X-Factors for this fight and one of the most important ones is the lack of preparation Herman had for Roy Nelson. He didn't get much time to put in a training camp and the only thing he really didn't have to worry about was making weight. If he isn't in perfect fight shape, Nelson could eat him alive while fighting in his backyard of Las Vegas.
The other factor is the stakes for both heavyweights. Both Nelson and Herman have unique and dry senses of humor which UFC president Dana White hasn't exactly been a fan of. White has taken issue with Nelson's weight and Herman's appearance and attitude in previous fights so both men could be fighting for their jobs. That could affect their strategies significantly.
Bottom Line: Both of these men have taken home "Fight of the Night" and "Knockout of the Night" bonuses so as long as the fight stays standing, there should be some serious potential for fireworks as both heavyweights have serious power and can take a punch. I would not be surprised if both men wailed on each other for a good 10 minutes before tiring. This fight has some serious potential for some heavy hits and some excitement.
Who will come out on top at UFC 146? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!