Heading into UFC Vegas 16, Swedish middleweight headliner Jack Hermansson had been on something of a roller coaster. Every loop, a new opponent.
“We started off with Till and I was super happy with the match-up. Darren Till is a great opponent and a big fan favorite,” said Hermansson at Thursday’s UFC Vegas 16 media day. Hermansson noted that he’d been doing training specifically tailored to Till. “And then he injured himself.” Four weeks out, Hermansson was paired up with Kevin Holland.
That match-up wasn’t to be either. Holland wound up testing positive for COVID-19. In came Marvin Vettori, originally scheduled to face Jacare Souza a week later.
In the back of his mind, Jack Hermansson wondered if his fight would be the latest to be hit by COVID-19. After all a number of key fights have fallen through in the past few months, the result of the virus continuing its spread through the population.
“You’re thinking about it like, ‘Am I going to get [COVID-19]? Is my opponent going to get it? Because it seems like it’s happening all the time,” admitted Hermansson. “So I was definitely thinking that it could happen. Even though I was surprised, I wasn’t that surprised. You have it in the back of your mind.”
In a way, this latest opponent change has an upside. Till was ranked 6th in the middleweight division. Holland wasn’t ranked at all. Vettori sits in the 13th spot. “I feel like since Kevin Holland was unranked, it’s one step up again against Vettori. I feel pretty good with that, Vettori being a ranked guy. That’s all good,” said the Swedish fighter, before adding “but of course, you always want the biggest names. This time it wasn’t possible. But I still want to fight.”
Plus, Hermansson pointed out, “my natural fighting style works very well against Vettori.” He’s imagining a quick finish early in the fight, while preparing for more of a grueling war. “Marvin Vettori has never been finished, but I’m looking forward to being the first one [to stop him].”
The question now becomes where a win over Italy’s Vettori would leave “The Joker.” The Swede is coming off a win over Kelvin Gastelum, but is just a fight removed from a loss to Jared Cannonier. Prior to that, he’d put together an impressive win streak.
“I’m already ranked #4, I’m already in a sweet spot, a good position, and I feel like a win over Marvin just solidifies that position,” said Hermansson. “It will just show everybody that I’m right up there. Marvin went three rounds with Adesanya, and if I can finish Marvin, I will show everybody that I’m ready for that title shot.”
Jack Hermansson faces Marvin Vettori in the main event of UFC Vegas 16 (UFC on ESPN 19) this Saturday, December 5 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.