April 30, 2019

UFC Ft. Lauderdale: Jack Hermansson Enters the Middleweight Title Mix

By Adam Martin

When he stepped in on short notice to fight Ronaldo "Jacare" Sozua in the man event of UFC Ft. Lauderdale, few gave Jack Hermansson much of a chance to win the fight. The Swedish-Norwegian fighter was filling big shoes in the form of an injured Yoel Romero and going up against one of the best middleweights in the world in the form of Jacare. So it was easy to see why most saw this as a fight that Souza would win, and why the betting odds had the Brazilian as the clear favorite to win.

But "The Joker" was up for the task and more. In what was one of the best fights of 2019, Hermansson and Souza went the full five rounds, and after 25 minutes the judges awarded Hermansson a unanimous decision win, by far the biggest victory of his career. The win gives Hermansson a four-fight win streak and improved his UFC record to 7-4 inside the Octagon. Beating Souza is huge, and puts Hermansson into elite company at 185 lbs.

The UFC middleweight division is arguably in the best shape it's been since the fall of Anderson Silva. UFC Middleweight Champion Robert Whittaker is scheduled to fight UFC Interim Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya later this year to unify the title, and with the 30-year-old Hermansson in the mix now, the top end of the division is even stronger. Now the question is, what's next for him?

Following the victory, Hermansson said in his post-fight interview that he wants to headline the UFC's card in Copenhagen, Denmark in October. That makes a lot of sense considering Whittaker vs. Adesanya will be during the same month, so timing-wise Hermansson would be on the right schedule if he takes on another top contender. So it's a no-brainer for him to headline that event; the only question is who the UFC is going to book him against.

On Ariel Helwani's MMA Show, Hermansson gave three potential opponents for his next fight. The first was Romero, who is the highest-ranked middleweight not currently booked. Romero hasn't fought since a decision loss to Whittaker last June and needs a fight soon. He might want to fight before October, but if he can wait, Hermansson makes sense as his opponent. Hermansson also called out Kelvin Gastelum, who is coming off of a tough loss to Adesanya in a "Fight of the Year" contender, and Chris Weidman, who remains highly-ranked despite losing to Souza last November. Any of these three fighters makes sense as Hermansson's next opponent, but Romero would be ideal.

Although it's disappointing to see such a great ambassador of the sport in "Jacare" Souza lose and likely lose his chance of ever fighting for the title, it was great to see Hermansson break through and get the win. The middleweight division is going through a time of transition, and seeing the old guard fall to the new guard can be disheartening, but it's just the natural progression of the sport. Souza is no longer a title contender, but Hermansson is, and now we'll see how far he can go in the middleweight division. Maybe he'll be a champion one day. Only one way to find out.

UFC on ESPN+ 8
Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza vs. Jack Hermansson: Jack Hermansson defeats Ronaldo Souza via unanimous decision (49-46, 48-47, 48-47).

UFC on ESPN+ 8: Jacare vs. Hermansson (formerly UFC on ESPN 3: Romero vs. Jacare 2) took place April 27, 2019 at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida.

Click HERE for more UFC on ESPN+ 8 Post-Fight Analysis

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