It’s hard to look at Dave Herman’s record, and history before he became a professional fighter, the potential for him to do great things in athletic competition was seemingly unparalleled. Despite never completing a season of high school wrestling he managed to walk on at Indiana University and become a starting caliber wrestler, something that just doesn’t happen at that high level. And he didn’t just become another guy, either: he wound up becoming an elite-caliber wrestler who finished ninth and probably could’ve finished higher if not for a bar fight that wound up getting him kicked off the team as a senior.
Mike Riordan did an amazing write up on it for Bloody Elbow if you want the particulars, of course, and when he became a professional fighter the ceiling looked like it had no limit. Before he came into the UFC Herman looked like a killer, a freakishly athletic heavyweight with a nickname ridiculous enough to make him interesting. And in his first fight, a wild brawl against Jon-Olav Einemo, Herman looked like he would be fighting for UFC gold sooner than later. He had been the best heavyweight prospect outside of the UFC/Strikeforce/Bellator, and by a wide margin, and looked like he would be among the elite level of talent soon.
He was a heavyweight prospect who looked like he just couldn’t miss. But then something funny happened: he missed. And he missed by a wide margin, too, despite being given every opportunity to become a hit by Zuffa brass. UFC 162 was the final nail in the coffin for Herman, who has just become the biggest waste of talent in UFC (and perhaps MMA) history.
Stefan Struve would stop him in a competitive bout more noteworthy for Herman’s appearance than his actions.
Roy Nelson would knock him out defiantly, the beer-gutted brawler laying out the yoked & athletic Herman in quick fashion.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira would disprove Herman’s assertion that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu doesn’t work in MMA by submitting him with an armbar in Big Nog’s native Brazil.
And the final indignity for Herman: after being a main card fighter on nearly every card after the JOE fight he wound up getting stopped in under 20 seconds by Gabriel Gonzaga well before the main event of the FX prelim fighters, behind an international TUF season winner and an afterthought on a spectacular undercard.
Throw in a pair of drug suspensions for Marijuana and Herman, with a 1-4 record in the UFC, came in looking like Samson but wound up fighting like Delilah. And it’s a shame because he will most likely get cut from the UFC roster after this fight to the regional scene. The one thing going into the fight, and seemingly every fight he was in, has been figuring out whether or not Herman cared as much about being an elite fighter as everyone else did.
It’s sad that question has now turned into a statement. Dave Herman seemingly didn’t care and his fighting career has reflected it. For someone with so much talent the fact that he would opt to train himself for a “do or die” fight says everything you need to know about Herman. He was someone who needed to go to an elite camp and manage his career on a higher level than “Oh well.” The fact that he could make it to the UFC without being known for working hard on sheer talent alone is something remarkable.
The fact that he fought five times in the company despite not appearing to care either way is another.
Herman is still young enough at 28 to turn things around and become the sort of heavyweight challenger he has the talent to become. He’s not in the same category as BJ Penn, who at age 34 is in a case of having wasted most of his prime by the time he put it all together. And if he does he could wind up being in that JDS/Cain/Cormier/Werdum category of eliteness at heavyweight. Until then he’s bound to go down as the biggest washout in UFC history.