The bout receiving much of the attention leading up to Saturday night's Strikeforce: Miami event is the battle featuring 47-year-old former two-time Pro Bowl NFL running back Herschel Walker (0-0, 0-0 SF) taking on the relatively unknown Greg Nagy (1-1, 0-0 SF) in heavyweight action. The showdown will not only give Walker a chance to prove his athleticism and reputation as a "freak" physical specimen, but his celebrity status is also allowing the sport to gain a few more eyes that wouldn't normally tune in for such an event.
Aside from the media blitz that is following Walker's every move leading up to the fight, this should be a straight forward coin flip of a match-up on paper. We have no idea how Walker is going to look when he comes into this fight, and from all early indications out of American Kickboxing Academy -- Walker was very green to start out his training. Mike Chiapetta talked with head trainer Javier Mendez about Walker in the lead-up to this event, and the word is that Walker has made extraordinary leaps since his first days in the gym. Bobby Southworth called them "quantum leaps".
Our own Michael Rome pointed out yesterday that the hype out of American Kickboxing Academy could be a bit overblown. After all, Mendez did talk about Cain Velasquez possessing K-1 level striking and could have been a good boxer. From watching his battle with Cheick Kongo, that was an obvious exaggeration.
Without knowing how Walker will look, we turn to his opponent, Greg Nagy. The Hungarian-born fighter should have a slight height advantage, and he'll obviously have a slight experience edge over Walker. The only problem with the perceived edge is that Walker has been training with some of the best fighters in the world at AKA while Nagy hasn't.
Athletic ability has to go to Herschel Walker. Some fans are clamoring that a 47-year-old man can't be in that great of shape, but Herschel was a "freak" of nature when he was in the NFL. He is one of the few athletes who remains dedicated to body weight exercises, and he built his massive body in college from nothing but push-ups, sit-ups, chin-ups, and other body weight exercises. In his late 40's, he was still pushing out 1,500 push-ups and 2,500 sit-ups every morning.
But as we know in MMA, strength and the look of your physique isn't everything. Thus, I'll point to Brent Brookhouse's breakdown of Greg Nagy's last bout against Francisco Navarro. From the round-by-round summaries, it certainly looks like Nagy is a great choice if Strikeforce is looking for a victory for Walker. Nagy seems to have poor stand-up skills that resemble slappy bar-brawling rather than technical boxing. He has some abilities to gain takedowns, but it sounds like his knowledge in the art of ground warfare is lacking.
Sounds like a lock, right? We have to remember that Nagy is new the sport as well. He's only 1-1, and Walker may come out looking novice as well since he has no professional bouts under his belt. The only huge difference is the training both men have received. If Walker's learning curve is as advanced as it has been touted to be, he should be able to win this bout easily.
I'm going with Herschel Walker in this match-up. His athleticism should be able to bring him the victory here, and his training camp is going to be the major difference as well in how he performs. Despite the possible over-exaggeration from Javier Mendez in Walker's skills, Nagy is nothing special. He might be worth some money as a 5-to-1 underdog though.