On Saturday the UFC heads to Denmark for a card headlined by rising middleweight contenders Jared Cannonier (12-4) and Jack Hermansson (20-4). Because neither Cannonier nor Hermansson are yet household names and because of the card being held in Scandinavia, it isn’t getting as much attention Stateside as it deserves.
In fact, Saturday’s main-event has the potential to be thrilling, and it certainly has significance in terms of the middleweight division’s top 10. Cannonier has won two-straight bouts since dropping to middleweight, including a TKO over all-time great Anderson Silva.
Hermansson has won his last four fights, including huge wins over Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and former world-title challenger Thales Leites. Whoever manages to win the evenly matched main event will undoubtedly move closer to title contention, so read our brief breakdown of the fight below and get ready for the weekend.
Cannonier and Hermansson both have confident and powerful striking on the feet. Cannonier fought for years at heavier weight classes and seems to have brought that big-man power from heavyweight down with him to middleweight.
That’s a scary prospect for any opponent. To make matters more frightening for his rivals, Cannonier is well-conditioned and focused, so he’s capable of effectively striking and turning the tables at any moment, even after grinding, tiring exchanges.
Take his win over David Branch, for example. In that fight Cannonier had to fight off draining takedown attempts from the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt over and over again.
After he did, he was still sharp and fresh enough to stay ahead of Branch and connect with big strikes that resulted in a TKO win. Relatedly, Cannonier has fantastic hustle, timing and accuracy off separation.
That is to say, as he did with Branch, he exploits moments where opponents often rest or think they are safe when a clinch or grappling exchange ends. Cannonier gives opponents no breathing space and throws strikes on separation, often first, which compounds the effect of his powerful punches.
For his part, Hermansson has a diverse set of striking attacks on the feet. He has long punches and moves his head well defensively and with feints.
Hermansson is also aggressive and can turn the heat on when he needs to, as Cannonier does. When Hermansson hunts for a KO he isn’t afraid to go high-flying, mixing in swooping knee strikes in with his hands.
Hermansson might have the better offensive wrestling in this matchup, but both he and Cannonier are very hard to drag down to the mat. When they are, both men are quite good at staying safe from submissions and then working their way up to the feet.
Neither has showed a particular susceptibility to getting overly drained from wrestling exchanges, so it will be interesting to see if either fades first should extended grappling exchanges occur.
Hermansson is an excellent mat grappler, capable of finishing bouts by submission, even off of his back. If he gets on top of opponents on the ground, however, he might be even more dangerous.
Look at his win over Leites as a case in point. Once Hermansson was on top of Leites, he was able to strike-to-pass smoothly, and then finished with thundering strikes from the mount.
That Hermansson could overwhelm even a phenomenal grappler like Leites on the ground says a lot about his MMA jiu-jitsu. To make it more impressive, Hermansson was badly injured when he did that, surviving what he says was a rib dislocation to pressure Leites on the feet, survive a deep choke, and then pass guard, mount and do serious damage from mount.
Cannonier will need to fight hard to not be put on his back in this fight, and he certainly will. If Hermansson can pin Cannonier on his back for an extended period of time, repeatedly, it may be difficult for the Arizonian to win.
Fortunately for him Cannonier is extremely hard to put and keep down, and has a steely focus that doesn’t allow him to give in quickly, even in tough spots.
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