Saturday night’s UFC Vegas 86 brings with it the first main event inside the promotion for Joe Pyfer, the 2022 Dana White’s Contender Series alum who has turned out to be one of the show’s biggest stars in recent memory.
After a disastrous start to the Contender Series that year, White went on a rant that included the line “Be Joe Pyfer,” in reference to the middleweight being the only fighter worthy of a contract that week.
That memorable line was all it took to land Pyfer in the MMA consciousness, and to his credit, he’s made the most of the opportunity, winning and finishing his first three UFC fights with two post-fight bonuses in that span.
Not a bad haul, but Joe Pyfer remains outside the rankings and is getting a sizeable step up in competition against #11-ranked middleweight Jack Hermansson at UFC Vegas 86.
The question that is to be answered in Saturday night’s main event is simple: is Joe Pyfer ready for his star turn?
As much as Apex-based UFC cards have been justifiably maligned of late — the empty, studio-sized venue has grown stale in comparison to crowded arenas full of roaring fans — placing Pyfer on such a card makes all the sense in the world. It’s a baby step for a fighter who still won’t have five fights in the company win or lose come Saturday night.
Still, looking into the magic MMA eight-ball, all signs point to yes when it comes to Joe Pyfer. He has done more than just win during his year or so in the UFC proper, becoming comfortable on the mic both in the cage and during media appearances. Pyfer also has the kind of story fans love to get behind: a rags to riches, hard work pays off tale similar to that of Themba Gorimbo, minus The Rock buying him a house.
And he’s not just winning. He’s finishing.
Of course, Sweden’s Hermansson is no pushover, no easy out. There is, however, a sense of vulnerability surrounding “The Joker,” now 35 and without back-to-back wins since 2019. It seems clear that Hermansson is being positioned as a middleweight gatekeeper as he comes off a loss to Georgian Roman Dolidze. Which makes Saturday a low-risk, high-reward situation for Pyfer: a loss, and fans will assume it was just too much, too soon. “Bodybagz” will almost certainly get another crack at the limelight down the road.
A win? Well, then the rankings await. Either way, it’s a very good time to be Joe Pyfer.