Hermansson hoping to start title-shot conversation

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There were probably quite a few people who were surprised by what Jack Hermansson was able to pull off against perennial contender Ronaldo Souza on Saturday.

But Hermansson, himself, wasn’t one of them.

“I think a lot of people were sleeping on me,” Hermansson told reporters, including MMA Junkie, after UFC on ESPN+ 8’s middleweight headliner at at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla. “And people thought that I was just jumping into this fight and, you know, (that) I’d give it a shot and see if I could win.

“It wasn’t like that at all. I really believed that my skills were better than his, and I think I proved that tonight.”

In fairness, the odds did seem a little stacked against Hermansson going into the match. Not only did “The Joker” initially agree to his first five-round UFC effort a mere week after a (victorious) UFC on ESPN 2 meeting with David Branch, he took it against a man who’s widely regarded as one of the most gifted grapplers in the sport.

None of it stopped Hermansson (20-4 MMA, 7-2 UFC) from taking aclear unanimous decision over Souza (26-7 MMA, 9-4 UFC) – or from sinking in his signature arm-in guillotine choke in the first round, thus coming close to accomplishing something that no other MMA fighter has been able to do and finishing Souza on ground.

Speaking to reporters earlier in the night, Souza said that the choke was so tight that he even briefly went out. And while his experience and patience helped the jiu-jitsu ace eventually escape it, that brief moment certainly helped show that Hermansson’s crazy strategy to go to the ground with “Jacare” wasn’t so crazy after all.

“The gameplan was to mix it up,” Hermansson said. “Later in the rounds, I got a little bit tired, so I didn’t have the drive in my takedowns – because I wanted to fight even more on the ground than we actually were. It was really really close there in the first round. I was close to finishing that guillotine choke there, and ‘Jacare’ showed how great he is because I would have finished nine out of 10 guys down there, but I didn’t finish him.”

Hermansson was, predictably, very happy with what he sees as the biggest win of his career. And he acknowledges the upsides of the fact that it went all five rounds – like, for instance, the material he’ll now have from which he’ll be able to study and learn.

But, although he was able to execute the exact fight that his coach had predicted, “The Joker” would still have liked a finish.

“It’s terrible to be in there five rounds,” Hermansson said with a laugh. “It’s a long time, you know. I’m super tired. I wanted to get out of there. My coaches were telling me, ‘No, Jack. In this round, you’re going to keep the distance.’ I’m just like, ‘Nope, I ain’t. I’m going to take him down. I want to be on top. I don’t want to stick and move. I don’t want to dance. I’m tired, you know. I want to get out of here.’ So I just threw a couple of hard punches and tried to take him down.”

The resilient Souza wasn’t on board with Hermansson’s plans, of course, and the result was Hermansson’s first trip to the judges’ scorecards since 2016. It was still, however, a dominant win that added up to a four-fight streak for “The Joker.”

Click here to read the full article on MMA Junkie.

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