Securing a rear-naked choke is not Jack Hermansson’s go-to when he takes his opponent’s back.
One of the best middleweights on the European scene over the last 10 years, the towering Swede’s signing to the UFC was widely celebrated on the continent in 2016, but it wasn’t until his third outing under the banner that we saw a signature stoppage from ‘The Joker’.
Inside the first minute of his clash against Alex Nicholson in May, Hermansson took him to the ground. After passing to mount, the former Cage Warriors middleweight champion began to rain down blows with Nicholson offering his back in the hopes of stopping the onslaught.
The barrage of elbows and punches continued to fall, and two minutes into the fight, the referee had seen enough.
Despite traveling all over the world throughout his career, the first-round stoppage marked Hermansson’s first fight in his native Sweden, making the victory all the more special.
“It couldn’t have been better,” Hermansson told MMAFighting.com.
“That one is going to stay with me for a long time. The whole fight week was amazing and then to finish it off so quickly was just amazing. Everything about it was perfect.”
The finish of Nicholson could look run-in-the-mill to the untrained eye, but when you understand that amount of Hermansson’s adversaries that have met their demise in a similar fashion, you quickly realize that there is a definite method to his madness.
Avid European fans will remember Hermansson bursting Enoc Torres’ ear open with elbows from back mount in a similar situation at Cage Warriors 66. Five months later in Jordan, Deyan Topalski got blasted into submission when ‘The Joker’ got him to the deck. Even in his final bout before signing with the UFC, Hermansson wowed potential suitors when he ground and pounded his way to a stoppage in the final 30 seconds of his clash with Ireneusz Cholewa at Venator FC 3 in Milan.
“My overall ground and pound game is something that I really focus on, and really, I think that’s a big difference between me and a lot of other fighters,” he explained.
“I have certain drills that make me think about ground and pound positions in an in depth way. I’ve been doing that for years now, and that process has allowed me to refine it to where it is today. From any position on top, I feel like I can land some very heavy shots.
“When I get the back, my opponents completely freak out. They are so used to people trying to get the choke when they start getting hit with big shots you can feel them panic.”
It was his training alongside Norwegian legend Joachim Hansen that opened Hermansson’s eyes to the various avenues that exist inside ground and pound. As he sees it, the vast majority of fighters do not put the same emphasis on the technique in their training.
“Most people just aren’t very technical about. It’s funny to me really, because these are smart fighters that spend a lot of time on jiu-jitsu, wrestling and different styles of striking. For some reason, ground and pound is kind of overlooked,” he said.
“They’re just throwing punches with no bigger ideas. The thing is, it is a very hard thing to study. I’m coming in with punches from one angle and I know my opponent might have three different options when the punches start coming in, but I have a response for each of those options. I always have a follow-up plan.
“It’s very hard to describe it, but the only way to understand is to be underneath me in a fight situation,” he said.
Although Hermansson can be lethal from all areas with his grounded strikes, his attacks from the back are particularly brutal.
“In that position specifically, the length of my arms really helps. As well as that, when you’re on the back you can use your hip movement, and that allows you to wind up a lot more,” stated Hermansson.
“Having long arms is a really big advantage in that situation. I can wind up and I have such a big range of motion that it allows me to create a lot of power in that position.
“If people haven’t been put through it before — and that’s most people because not a lot of fighters are training this way — then they are going to be in a whole lot of trouble.”
Hermansson made no secret of his great respect for his UFC Fight Night 114 opponent, Brad Scott, but he feels the Brit can meet a similar end to Nicholson should they end up in a similar situation.
“I have nothing but respect for Brad. As I was saying, I think we shared the friendliest face off of all time ahead of this fight. That being said, I’m very confident I can finish the fight with ground and pound if the fight hits the ground. I guess it’s up to Brad to keep me on my feet.”