UFC 87 Breakdown: Herring vs. Lesnar

Aug 8, 2008
A pseudo-homecoming for one of the sport’s premier heavyweight prospects and a Texan just looking to find his way rounds out the main card for this Saturday’s UFC 87.

The pseudo-homecoming belongs to Brock Lesnar (Pictures), who graduated from the University of Minnesota. While Lesnar’s style is more siege tank than golden gopher, he’ll have all of gopher nation pinning their hopes on him.

The pressure on Herring comes from within. A UFC title run hasn’t materialized for the veteran contender, and another loss on his resume, to a MMA rookie no less, would be nothing short of disastrous.

So who can win? Who will? win? I don’t know, but I’ll be glad to pretend I do.

Lesnar Scouting Report
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/265 lbs.
Age: 31
Hometown: Webster, S.D.
Fighting out of: Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.
MMA record: 1-1

Did you know? Lesnar was born in South Dakota and began his collegiate wrestling career at Bismarck State College in North Dakota before moving on to his eventual alma mater, the University of Minnesota.

Bio: Originally a member of the spandex ballerina crew employed by Vince McMahon and the WWE, Lesnar’s roots as a legitimate athlete at the collegiate level left him pining for competition of the unscripted variety. A failed run at the NFL gave way to some serious MMA training, but the WWE was unwilling to waive the non-compete clause that barred Lesnar from signing with any “sports entertainment” or MMA promotion.

After some lengthy legal untangling, Lesnar is now free to ply his wares for the UFC. Although his debut against Frank Mir (Pictures) ended in disappointment, he did show preposterous physical talent and nearly had the far more experienced Mir dead to rights.

On his opponent: “Heath has had some battles getting into the Octagon and proving himself, but I think I’m going to get the best Heath Herring (Pictures) come August 9th,” Lesnar told UFC.com. “Heath has got a lot to lose in this fight too, so I think there’s a lot on the line for both of us.”

Why he’ll win: Despite wasting several years on the physically demanding pro wrestling circuit, Lesnar seems to have retained the athleticism and explosiveness that made him such a physically dominant wrestler. Assuming Lesnar gains the top position, there’s no telling if Herring will have the wherewithal to snag a submission in between taking fists to the head.

Why he’ll lose: Lesnar is still a neophyte in the world of MMA, and he should not be taking on such veteran opposition right out of the gate. The gym can only prepare you for so much, and we all saw what happened once Mir put Lesnar in a tight spot.

Herring Scouting Report
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/250 lbs.
Age: 30
Hometown: Waco, Texas
Fighting out of: Las Vegas, Nev.
MMA record: 28-13, 1 NC

Did you know? Despite coming from a wrestling background, Herring has trained under legendary Dutch kickboxer Rob Kaman as well as Team Golden Glory, which produced kickboxers such as Semmy Schilt (Pictures) and Stefan Leko (Pictures).

Bio: Perhaps best remembered for his days under the PrideFC banner, Herring put on valiant efforts against the likes of Fedor Emelianenko (Pictures) and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (Pictures) but always finished a day late and a dollar short.

An opportunity to change up the Charlie Brown routine came when he took on Nogueira for a third time and leveled the Brazilian’s cinder-block head. Unfortunately for Herring, he squandered the opportunity and eventually lost a decision despite coming within a hair of handing Nogueira his first stoppage loss.

While Herring did rebound from that disappointment with a win over Cheick Kongo (Pictures), a loss to Lesnar could make him a prelim regular instead of the main card star that many thought he’d become in the UFC.

On his opponent: “There's nothing that's been thrown at me that I haven’t seen before,” Herring told Sherdog.com in July. “Career-wise, for him, this fight doesn’t make any sense. He’s one and one. But I want to accomplish things. I want to get to the top of the sport and not have to worry about getting another job.”

Why he’ll win: While Herring has always been a mediocre wrestler, he does have a well-rounded style that includes solid submission savvy and a knack for landing cranium-crunching strikes. If Herring can nullify Lesnar with either of those skills, then this fight is his to lose.

Why he’ll lose: Normally, Herring’s ability to scramble is one of his greatest strengths, but against Lesnar it becomes a major liability. Herring preys on his opponent’s willingness to go for submissions by exposing his back like a Hollywood starlet. Yet Lesnar may take the opportunity to unleash a ground-and-pound barrage that Herring may not be prepared for.

* * *

The bottom line: Anyone with a functioning set of eyes can see Lesnar’s potential, but he has no business taking on one of the most experienced heavyweights in the world. Lesnar will come out and score a takedown and maybe even give Herring a scare with ground-and-pound, but it won’t be long before Lesnar makes a mistake that costs him the fight.
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