Saturday night, Ed Herman will break ranks and compete outside the UFC.
For one night — and one night only — the middleweight mainstay will technically be a Strikeforce fighter, as he steps up to fill the void opposite former middleweight champion Ronaldo (Jacare) Souza on the final fight card in the company’s history.
Herman’s inclusion as part of the line-up for the Jan. 12 event comes as a result of injuries and the organization’s already depleted ranks. Having announced they’ll be closing up shop for good following this weekend’s event, finding healthy bodies to fill out the line-up has been a chore, with the 13-time UFC veteran becoming the second half of an all-replacement match-up against the decorated jiu-jitsu practitioner.
Souza stepped in for current middleweight champion Luke Rockhold when he was initially forced from the card, while Herman is replacing up-and-coming prospect Lorenz Larkin. What started as a title fight is now a chance for redemption for the fiery redhead known as “Short Fuse,” and though he was admittedly hesitant at first, Herman has come to see this as a golden opportunity to get back into the win column — and the good graces of the UFC.
“Taking the fight knowing we’re helping them out, trying to get on the good side of the bosses is always good. Sometimes I feel like I’m in the doghouse. After that last fight I think I was,” laughed Herman, speaking with Sportsnet over the weekend.
Back in August, the 32-year-old veteran took a three-fight winning streak into a main card meeting with Jake Shields at UFC 150, and came away on the wrong side of the scores in a flat, plodding fight.
“I’m pretty sure they wanted me to go in there and beat up Jake, and I didn’t do that, plus it was a boring fight, and all that stuff. It always helps that I can redeem myself, not just by taking this fight, but going in there and performing well; showing them that I deserve to be someone they’re thinking of as a top contender.
“We had been bugging them about getting me a fight because it had been a few months since I was in the ring. When Lorenz Larkin got hurt, they had asked around and not too many of the Strikeforce guys wanted to take that fight, probably in fear of not being able to cross over into the UFC if they had lost on the last show, which I think is probably the reason why half-a-dozen guys pulled off that card.
“They called up, and said they needed a favour — someone to take that spot because no one else would,” continued Herman, who admitted he too had to think long and hard about changing companies for the night before receiving assurances that his next fight would take place in the Octagon.
“Those things were comforting to hear in that sense because if it wasn’t the last Strikeforce show, we may not have taken it just because we didn’t want to get stuck over there, but it was a good opportunity to fight a very tough opponent who is highly ranked, so we jumped on it.”
While there is no such thing as a no-lose situation in mixed martial arts, opting to cross over and take on Souza Saturday night is a pretty low risk, high reward opportunity for Herman.
Though his bout with Shields was eventually deemed a no contest when Shields failed his post-fight drug screening, the tepid performance halted the momentum Herman had built in the course of putting together three straight wins following his two-year hiatus following multiple knee injuries. With a win Saturday night, the Ultimate Fighter Season 3 contestant can propel himself into contention in the deep and murky middleweight ranks, and move on from his frustrating performance from UFC 150.
“I feel that when I was off that two years, so people forgot about me, and a lot of the new fans didn’t know who I was. It sucks having a lot of time off being injured, so to be healthy and be able to get right back in there to keep that momentum going, keep my name out there, keep people talking about me is great.
“Any time you take a loss, you want to get that taste out of your mouth; you want to get back in there, and compete again as soon as you can. To get in there and go against a top-10 guy is definitely motivation to get back in there, and get another win on the books.”
For the second consecutive fight, Herman will be sharing the cage with a highly decorated grappler, and a former Strikeforce middleweight champion.
Though Souza has shown improvements in his striking over his last few appearances, his submission game ranks among the best in the sport, and remains his greatest strength. “Jacare” represents a very similar stylistic puzzle for Herman as Shields did last summer, but unlike his last outing, the finalist from Season 3 of The Ultimate Fighter plans on spending less time worrying about what his opponent brings to the table.
“With Shields, I was a little bit too worried about what he could do, how to stop him from doing this or that. With this fight, I’m going to get back to not worrying so much about what the other guy is going to do, but what I’m going to do and what got me to where I am. Worrying about other guys isn’t what got me to where I am.
“Going in there, laying it all on the line, and trying to take people out, finish fights is what got me where I am. That’s my plan for this fight: to just go in there, and do what I do — push the pace, try to grind him, and break his will.”