Contenders Series product, Joe Pyfer, will take on the toughest challenge of his career opposite veteran contender, Jack Hermansson, this Saturday (Feb. 10, 2024) at UFC Vegas 85 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Be Joe Pyfer! “Bodybagz” really stands out as everything UFC is looking for with its Contenders Series search. He’s breaking power punch records, fighting inside the Apex, and scoring quick finishes to climb the ranks quickly. Subsequently, he’s got a big opportunity in his fourth UFC bout, a chance to break into the Top 10.
Interestingly, there’s serious financial incentive in winning this fight (more than usual). Typically, Contenders Series contracts — which do not pay particularly well — expire after the fourth fight. Unless Pyfer has already renegotiated, he’s fighting for leverage and a better paycheck for the rest of his UFC career.
Let’s take a closer look at his skill set:
Pyfer is a man who clearly just wants to let his right hand rip at any given time. Fortunately, he’s been trained well to set up the shot, and he boxes well between his flurries. Oh, and faulty punch machine or not, the man does hit super hard!
More than anything else, Pyfer is a boxer. He stands with his lead foot angled a bit inward, which helps in landing lovely check hooks (like in his second Contenders Series appearance) but also has seen him absorb some calf kicks. He’s so early in his career that I would label his issue with calf kicks more of a potential problem than genuine flaw, but Hermansson should be expected to go after that lead leg.
In terms of kicks, Pyfer uses the right roundhouse well. He tends to throw it naked but hard enough that countering is difficult. Every so often, Pyfer will slap a left hook and dig a right low kick, and it looks beautiful! Against Abdul Razak Alhassan, Pyfer did well to rip his middle kick into the Southpaw’s open side.
Generally, Pyfer wants to fight in the pocket, ideally with his opponent along the fence. He tends to press behind his jab, which carries plenty of pop. Every so often, he’ll double that jab up, which tends to work really well!
Once Pyfer gets his foe along the fence or otherwise convinces him to stand still, the right hands begin to fly. Pyfer has an excellent right hook, one that snaps around the guard with sudden speed and power. He also mixes up the angle, occasionally taking it straighter towards the chin or arcing into more of an overhand.
Pyfer does a nice job of mixing body shots into his attack, which really helps his odds of landing one of those haymakers. His preferred combos are to flash the jab and take his right hook to the body — an underutilized shot in MMA — or to shift his head over his left leg, rip a liver hook, and often follow that with an overhand. The left hook to the body and overhand are a classic pairing, and Pyfer makes use of them well.
Another nice boxing habit of Pyfer is to follow his hooking swings with a stiff jab down the middle.
Pyfer is somewhat vulnerable on his back foot, as he tends to back up in straight lines and only moves his head when he hits the fence. That said, pressuring Pyfer is still a dangerous prospect. He’s able to throw mean check hooks or plant right hands that can turn the tables quickly, so fighters looking to press Pyfer still have to remain defensively sound.
Pyfer’s wrestling is still something of an x-factor.
In his bout vs. Alhassan, Pyfer demonstrated excellent timing, quickness, and serious strength. A couple times, he was able to easily blast Alhassan off his feet because of his timing and physicality, ducking under a swing and throwing the Judoka through the air. His clinch takedowns appeared similarly powerful in that bout, as he ducked his way into good body lock positions before toppling Alhassan over.
Defensively, nobody has taken Pyfer down in his official UFC career … but nobody has even tried either. How harshly do we judge Pyfer for his Contender Series loss to Dustin Stoltzfus at age 23, where he was injured by a slam takedown? Or his regional loss a year earlier? Neither seem particularly relevant to the fighter that Pyfer has become.
Hopefully, the Hermansson bout will challenge this aspect of his game and reveal more.
Pyfer has finished three fights via submission, including his most recent victory over Abdul Razak Alhassan.
Opposite Alhassan, Pyfer twice landed takedowns with his head a bit low, allowing Alhassan to wrap up his neck in a guillotine attempt. The first time, Alhassan was able to secure a good angle and use the control/threat of his opponent’s neck to stand up.
Pyfer adjusted in the latter takedown. This time, he was able to step into half guard on the correct side, which nullifies the threat of the guillotine choke significantly. All of a sudden, Alhassan’s arm was stuck, similar to a Von Flue choke scenario. Pyfer locked his hands to keep the head and arm trapped, then cut through the guard into the same side as his choke. The arm triangle was locked in!
Pyfer does have one submission loss on his record from 2019. Again, I’m hesitant to assign any real relevance to the defeat since Pyfer was just 22 years old, but it’s still worth watching this little clip to see the progress in his overall abilities.
Take Jhonoven Pati vs. Joe Pyfer into consideration when doing the main event. So many breakdowns i’ve seen (including Dan Hardy’s) didn’t even mention this fight. pic.twitter.com/yYDIaT3FUB
— Vovin (@vovin5) February 6, 2024
Pyfer is obviously a well-coached talent with tremendous physical assets. However, he’s also quite unproven in all the classic Middleweight ways. Can he handle being taken down? Will he fold if fatigue gets to him? What happens when Hermansson refuses to go away? This bout will either reveal some of those answers, or we’ll see Pyfer secure another brutally quick finish over his toughest foe yet.
Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, is a professional fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport’s most elite fighters.