Jack Hermansson has gotten close to UFC title contention before but still never quite reached that pinnacle in his career.
With a main event fight booked against Sean Strickland at UFC Vegas 47 this weekend, Hermansson hopes to move closer to that goal with another win while also acknowledging that he’s one of the last fighters available who hasn’t already faced middleweight champion Israel Adesanya.
Add to that, Hermansson believes that he actually presents the toughest possible matchup for Adesanya, especially if the fight hits the floor where he’s at his strongest.
“I feel like I’m the biggest threat to [Israel Adesanya] in the division,” Hermansson told MMA Fighting. “Because I believe that if I can establish top position, I’m the most dangerous guy in our division. Even though [Derek] Brunson has great wrestling skills, you need to set up the take downs. You could see in [Brunson’s] first fight, he was kind of desperate and couldn’t close the distance with Adesanya. I also believe I have a better top game if we end up on the ground.
“I think that’s the easiest way to beat Adesanya but it doesn’t mean it’s easy if it’s not in your arsenal. You have be a really, really skilled grappler to be able to do that. I think I’m the one to pull it off.”
While it wasn’t a fight or even a grappling match, Hermansson did get the chance to test his wrestling skills during his off time after facing rising UFC star Khamzat Chimaev in Sweden this past November.
Chimaev has taken the sport by storm since first arriving in the UFC in 2020 and Hermansson welcomed the chance to face him even if it was just a freestyle wrestling match where he was at a decided disadvantage.
“We have to consider it was my first freestyle wrestling match ever,” Hermansson revealed. “I come from a Greco-Roman background. I’ve never done a freestyle match before. So I went into his game. If it would have been a grappling match, like a submission wrestling match, then I felt that would have been in my game.
“It was fun to get the good experience. I didn’t do the best technical match but I felt like I learned from it. It was a fun thing to do.”
Greco-Roman wrestling is based purely around upper body takedowns with no attacks allowed at all on the legs, which is a key component in freestyle competition.
Hermansson ultimately lost on points during the two-round match, although he definitely pushed Chimaev to the limit after the Chechen wrestler came charging out of the gates.
“Khamzat is an extremely fast starter,” Hermansson said. “He’s definitely good in those kinds of rules, a short fight. If you see my fights, one of my biggest skills are that I’m good to push the fight. The longer the fight goes, the more it goes to my favor. During a wrestling match, you need to be on from the first moment because it’s a short match. It’s a very explosive sport.
“While I’m a little bit more used to wrestling for more time, five minute rounds as we do in MMA. I definitely would have needed a little more time to adapt to do better. It always sucks with the loss even if we’re in his game. It is what it is.”
If the opportunity ever came up again, Hermansson says he would welcome a chance to face Chimaev in a rematch, except this time he won’t be giving “Borz” the advantage on the mats.
“I felt him slowing down as well at the end of the match,” Hermansson said. “He was leading too much by points but it was a little bit too late to make anything happen. But I could definitely feel him slow down a little bit.
“A freestyle match wouldn’t be my preferred rematch. I’d rather do it in my game, in a grappling match. 20 minutes, submission only. That would be a different story.”
As much fun as it was to wrestle with Chimaev last year, Hermansson’s main focus remains the UFC where he hopes to get through Strickland and then turn his full attention to the upcoming middleweight title rematch between Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker.
The last time around, Adesanya scored a lopsided knockout win but Hermansson expects a much better performance from Whittaker — even as he predicts the result will likely be the same.
“I feel like this is going to be a much closer fight,” Hermansson said. “I think it’s going to be a different fight, especially since Whittaker’s fight against [Kelvin] Gastelum where he showcased great wrestling skills and Adesanya’s fight against [Jan] Blachowicz — Blachowicz showed that could be a good thing to have in your game plan.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Whittaker wrestle a little bit more in this fight and that makes for a much more interesting fight. I still feel like Adesanya might be able to pull it off but I think it’s going to be a close one.”
Assuming he gets through Strickland on Saturday, Hermansson understands that he’s probably going to need at least one more win to solidify his position as the top contender in the division. That’s why he’s keeping a close eye on the upcoming middleweight fight between Derek Brunson and Jared Cannonier, which also takes place at UFC 271.
“I definitely think that’s a good option and probably the right thing to do if the champ is going to have some time off to make that fight,” Hermansson said about facing either Brunson or Cannonier next.