Joe Pyfer got his shot at the big time on Saturday, booked into his first UFC main event against Jack Hermansson at UFC Vegas 86.
Pyfer, a Contender Series winner in 2022 and one of the bigger names to come off the show in recent years, was getting a step up in competition against the #11-ranked Joker. How much of a step up remained to be seen, and Pyfer had downplayed that factor in the build-up to the fight.
Hermansson got busy with his kicks in the early going of the kick, while Pyfer swung and missed with his left, but connected with a kick of his own, low. A Pyfer right hand nearly connected on “The Joker” who backed away for just a moment. Hermansson was very light on his feet early, and Pyfer seemed to sense that and ripped a low kick that definitely had an impact. Those leg kicks also allowed Pyfer to set up his left hand.
With about 90 seconds remaining, Pyfer clipped Hermansson, who appeared to stumble briefly. If there was any question about Pyfer’s readiness for the step up, early on, he seemed to have answered it favorably.
The second round opened with Joe Pyfer holding center, with Hermansson circling, back to the fence. Pyfer struck first, but Hermansson pressed back, refusing to stay on his feels too long. Another overhand from Pyfer landed, and Jack Hermansson had seen, and felt, enough. He shot in on a single-leg takedown attempt; Pyfer easily fought that off.
Back at center, Hermansson pressed forward, guard high, while Pyfer threw out his jab. Pyfer had a small amount of blood by his temple, though he was almost certainly winning the fight through the first round and a half. Pyfer then returned to his low kick, landing on the calf and briefly putting Hermansson off-balance. Hermansson would answer with a kick of his own later in the round, and Pyfer, not accustomed to five-round fights, appeared to have slowed just a step. That didn’t last long, as a burst of activity from Pyfer came with about a minute left, and had Hermansson covering up for a bit.
Round three started with a slightly reduced pace, and Hermansson began working his own jab. He added in a knee, and a right hand, getting Pyfer’s attention. Pyfer continued to target the legs, but Hermansson fired right back in kind, putting Joe off-balance. A jab then had Joe Pyfer reeling, and he appeared to believe it to be an eye poke, while the ref declared otherwise. Hermansson connected with a right hand, and was having his best round of the fight so far. That Hermansson jab continued to split Pyfer’s guard; moments later a knee would land for the Swede. Pyfer would catch Hermansson with a left in the final minute, shifting momentum, but the round belonged to Jack Hermansson, who fired back just ahead of the horn.
Joe Pyfer entered the first fourth (and perhaps fifth) round of his career with his corner telling him he had allowed Hermansson back into the fight. Pyfer fired a jab early, and perhaps telling, grabbed a leg and worked on his own takedown, to no avail. Pyfer was throwing heavy, but his movement was hampered. Both men were working their jab and finding success, but it was Hermansson taking some big swings with his calf kicks. Two minutes in they tied up along the fence, with nothing much coming of it.
Hermansson landed a right hand, and with two minutes or so to go, Pyfer tried tying things up again. It was still anyone’s fight, but Pyfer’s movement had slowed, and his head movement was nearly non-existent. After pulling out to an early lead, Pyfer had indeed allowed Jack Hermansson back into the fight, with the scorecards quite possibly even heading into the final frame.
Jack Hermansson came right across the cage on the attack to start round five, with Pyfer taking some big swings in response. The cardio edge and experience clearly favored Hermansson, but Pyfer wasn’t out of it. His chances were not helped, however, when Hermansson landed his first takedown of the fight, planting Pyfer at center with a perfectly time level change. Half the round to go, and Pyfer had to find a way to his feet, and likely find a stoppage, to pull this one out.
It wasn’t to be. Pyfer spent the rest of the round on his back, Jack Hermansson in a dominant position over him.
Official Result: Jack Hermansson def. Joe Pyfer by unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 48-47)