Any time a hyped prospect or heavy favorite comes up short in a high-profile spot, “FRAUD CHECK” is the immediate cry on social media from every fan whose betting slip came up empty. The defeated fighter was not bested by a better opponent with a great gameplan.
No, they were just never any good in the first place — they’re FRAUDS!
Such will be the narrative for many after Joe Pyfer’s unanimous decision loss to Jack Hermansson last night (Sat. Feb. 10, 2024) in the main event of UFC Vegas 86. Pyfer started strong, showing off his ferocious power and putting Hermansson on the defensive. As that power waned a bit by the third, however, Pyfer didn’t have any real answer for the jab and calf kick of the veteran.
The problem is that we really shouldn’t have expected him to have all the answers this early in his MMA and UFC career. For every Chris Weidman who wins the undisputed belt at 10-0, there are dozens of Joe Pyfers still learning essential lessons in their 15th professional fight.
Early on, Pyfer demonstrated why he’s a special talent, a prospect of high regard. I have no way of confirming that Pyfer actually hits as hard as Francis Ngannou, but I can confirm that his opponents react similarly. Remember how Ngannou punched Junior dos Santos so hard that the Brazilian turned his back and tried to run away? Pyfer’s punches draw similarly odd reactions from his opponents, like when a very conscious Gerald Meerschaert covered up and accepted defeat after taking one big combination (watch it here).
Meerschaert is a tough, tough man with very few knockout losses on his record, but he tasted unusual power and didn’t know how to handle it. Pyfer has that gift, plus he throws smarter combinations than the average Middleweight.
The 27-year-old does not suck.
The problem is that he wasn’t ready for Hermansson — veteran of 32 professional fights — 17 UFC bouts, and five UFC main events. Hermansson knew exactly how to weather the early storm of Pyfer’s power, and he understood well that Pyfer would slow down after throwing so much heat. He also knew how to take advantage of Pyfer’s defensive weaknesses, which were on display in his previous Octagon bout against Abdul Razak Alhassan.
The simple truth here is that Alhassan is not a particularly good Middleweight (he’s 2-3 since moving up to 185-pounds), yet he gave Pyfer a lot of trouble. “Bodybagz” never rocked him with punches, and Alhassan’s calf kick was doing a lot of damage. Pyfer was able to bail himself out by running through an athletic double into an instant submission, but that option wasn’t always going to be there, especially since striking is his preferred approach to combat.
Sometimes, young fighters show a flaw then immediately correct it. Referring back to Weidman, he got his leg kicked to pieces in the first fight with Anderson Silva but less than six months later was able to break Silva’s shin with a checked kick. The issue is that these fighters are wildly rare and should not be looked at as the norm.
Pyfer — well-coached and talented prospect that he is — did indeed show some improved calf kick defense … for about a round. Then, his feet slowed a little, some jabs blinded him, and old habits emerged — perfectly typical for a young fighter.
The silver lining here is that UFC main event status doesn’t mean what it once did. Nobody was in attendance to watch Jack Hermansson “fraud check” Joe Pyfer. UFC CEO, Dana White, attracted more fans and celebrities to the weekend’s Power Slap CTE Festival than the actual fights, so at least a hype train crashed and burned with relatively few spectators.
Most likely, Pyfer will be back in the same empty warehouse within the next six months, rebounding and building experience against unranked opposition as is needed. His ceiling is still quite high, but that potential assumes he’s given a reasonable path to develop his talents.
For complete UFC Vegas 86: “Hermansson vs. Pyfer” results and play-by-play, click HERE.