Jai “The Black Country Banger” Herbert is a 34-year-old English fighter with an 11-4 professional record. He’s struggled in the UFC but has continually been in fan-friendly fights. Since joining the promotion in 2020, coming over from Cage Warriors, Herbert has gone 1-3, with all four fights ending by finish.
Kyle “The Monster” Nelson, 31, is a Canadian featherweight who has also gone 1-3 in the UFC, with all of his fights ending by finish, as well. Herbert vs. Nelson will feature on the UFC London early prelims this weekend.
Herbert is a solid favorite in a fight that should be fun for as long as it lasts.
Herbert has had a tough go of it in the UFC despite having some real positives to his game. He has a long frame and primarily fires punches right down the barrel, which, when he’s moving forward, keeps his opponents on the end of his strikes. Herbert also mixes in solid kicks and has the dexterity to throw a leg kick or a head kick without much load-up or telegraphing. When he lets his hands go and throws in combination, Herbert can seriously crack. He’s finished nine fights by knockout, several of which came in the first round.
Herbert, though, has a few exploitable flaws that have caused him to lose more often than not in the UFC. He can be pressured back into the cage, especially as his gas tank dwindles down after round 1, and be forced into a pocket brawl that negates his height advantage. Further, he often over-extends on his strikes and can be countered heavily. In his most recent fight, we saw the absolute best of Herbert immediately followed by the same flaws I listed above. He cracked Ilia Topuria, a highly-touted prospect, and nearly finished him. But then, when Herbert went in for the finish, he over-extended, Topuria returned fire and completely flipped the script. Soon after, it was Topuria getting the finish instead of Herbert. When Herbert fights within himself and protects his chin, he can pose a real issue for anyone who tries to stand with him.
Nelson is a hyper-aggressive fighter who, like Herbert, can look solid at times but often is his own worst enemy in the cage. Nelson tends to rush forward from the opening bell, take big swings, and look for the finish immediately. When he rushes forward, he’ll lead with his head exposed and swing from his hip. This is a dangerous strategy because most UFC caliber strikers can avoid the looping overhand right and fire a piston of a cross before Nelson can land his shot. After the first minute or so where Nelson blitzes forward, he’ll settle into the fight a bit more. He is still aggressive, relentlessly moving forward, and always looking for the one-hitter-quitter. But, midway through round 1, Nelson incorporates more varied strikes and solid kicks.
The issue, for Nelson, after round 1 is that he tends to gas out. He swings so powerfully and violently in the first five minutes that he has one or two more bursts left in the tank before he completely gasses out. Nelson’s typical path to victory is a shock and awe brawl in the first five minutes where he can land one heavy blow. After that, it’s often Nelson who gets finished.
Herbert should win here and win easily with a finish. However, Herbert has seriously struggled against pressure fighters, and his chin is suspect. So, Nelson has a legitimate chance to find the upset in round 1.
If Herbert stays composed and lets Nelson walk into a shot, Herbert should be able to land a fundamental cross and drop Nelson for the win. I’m going to be holding my breath until it ends, but give me Herbert to get the knockout.
Prediction: Herbert to win by KO/TKO (-125 odds at MyBookie)
Michael Pounders is a high school English Teacher, a boxer himself, and is a fan who loves, gambles on, and nerds out about all things MMA.