It can be painfully obvious when the
Ultimate Fighting Championship elects to put its promotional
muscle behind one of its up-and-coming athletes.
That was the case heading into
UFC Fight Night 236, when Dana White’s Contender Series alum
Pyfer appeared to be the focal point of the card. Jack
Hermansson, Pyfer’s dance partner in Saturday’s middleweight
headliner, was something of the forgotten man. That changed over
the course of 25 minutes at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, as “The
Joker” refused to play the role of gatekeeper in a unanimous
decision triumph against the heavily-hyped Pyfer.
“It definitely motivated me,” Hermansson said on the ESPN+
post-fight show. “I thought to myself, yeah after this fight people
are gonna see that I’m no pushover and you can’t just get one of
those younger guys in there and think they are just gonna run
through me. I definitely took notice of it. It didn’t bother me too
much, but of course it was some motivation.”
Pyfer looked confident early, and he had Hermansson on the
defensive as he raced out to an early lead on the scorecards. The
17-time Octagon veteran weathered the storm, however, and gradually
pulled away as the fight progressed. Prior to Saturday, Pyfer had
finished all three of his UFC opponents inside of two rounds.
“We haven’t seen Joe in the later rounds in any of his other
fights, but typically if you have a power puncher, you can’t do
both,” Hermansson said. “I know I’m a volume striker, I’m a cardio
guy. So I figured out that I had that advantage.”
Pyfer’s vaunted punching power was evident in the opening stanza,
but Hermansson was able to adapt and avoided taking taking
significant damage in the later rounds. “The Joker” has faced big
names over the course of his UFC tenure, yet he still acknowledged
that Pyfer might have the heaviest hands of anyone he’s fought.
“He probably is the hardest puncher I’ve fought so far,” Hermansson
said. “… He hit me too many times. It wasn’t good. I shouldn’t be
hit that much. I tried to keep my composure, and I adjusted a
little bit in the beginning. I was a little bit too high with my
posture. When I sunk in a little bit, it was easier to protect
myself from the punches.”
Hermansson sees a clear direction in the middleweight division on
the heels of his latest triumph.
Imavov should be a good opponent coming up,” Hermansson said.
“He won last week and I won this weekend. We’re real close in the
rankings, so I think that should be a good matchup.”