Saturday night in San Jose, legendary Georgia Bulldog Herschel Walker (1-0) faces veteran journeyman Scott Carson (4-1) in what is the 1982 Heisman Trophy winner's second professional MMA bout. Airing live on Showtime, the fight co-headlines the Strikeforce: Diaz vs Cyborg welterweight championship card. Carson is a moderate challenge for the football great whose career is - rightly - being handled as if he is a prospect, despite him being 48 years old. Walker won his first contest against the unheralded Greg Nagy last January in Miami.
In that match with Nagy, Walker demonstrated rare cardio for the heavyweight division (205-265 lbs), dishing out a sustained beating for more than two rounds until securing a stoppage. Despite it being his first match, Walker found himself the aggressor, shooting in for clinches and takedowns after prodding with leg kicks. When he was able to get Nagy to the mat, Herschel showed a somewhat novice understanding of Brazilian jiu-jitsu in that he should have had an easier time advancing position and fishing for submissions on his physically outmatched opponent. Nevertheless, the football great dished out effective ground-and-pound with a barrage of hammerfists and clubbing blows from top control throughout.
It's been a year since that match, a year that could only benefit the progression of Walker as a fighter. He trains at the highly regarded American Kickboxing Academy under the tutelage of master trainers such as Javier Mendez and Dave Camarillo, alongside top pound-for-pound fighters such as Cain Velasquez and Jon Fitch. Mendez has surely spent considerable time weaning the flashy, ineffective Tae Kwon Do tendencies from Walker's kickboxing into a more focused, eight-point Muay Thai attack. While I'm certain Herschel's kickboxing has been polished, what I'm most interested in is the development of his wrestling, especially considering that Daniel Cormier, former US Olympic wrestling team captain and himself a fast-rising fighter in MMA's heavyweight division, also calls AKA home. If Walker has gleaned anything from his time with top-tier wrestlers like Velasquez, Fitch, and Cormier, his natural athleticism could provide us with the great spectacle of a nearly 50-year-old-man shooting for explosive power doubles and knee-taps.
As for Carson, he's the underdog here despite a decade in the fight business. He is a veteran of the old WEC organization, but only recently returned from a lengthy sojourn, losing by knockout to a no-name fighter. Walker, for all of his inexperience, should be the favorite on sheer athleticism. The wild card is that we don't know anything about Herschel's chin - how well he will respond to getting hit. My best estimation of how this will go is that it will be similar to the Nagy fight: use leg kicks to slow his opponent down and find his distance before closing in for the takedown. Perhaps we'll see a bit of Herschel's submission game in this one, if that's something he's been working on, but I expect the Goal Line Stalker to win via TKO in round two or three.