Preview: UFC Fight Night 160 ‘Hermansson vs. Cannonier’

Hermansson vs. Cannonier

By Tom Feely Sep 25, 2019


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The Ultimate Fighting Championship has targeted Copenhagen, Denmark, for an event three years in a row, and now, it will finally happen. Even better, UFC Fight Night 160 on Saturday appears to be worth the wait. While the bout order may be a bit strange -- they usually are in 2019 -- there is plenty to like here, even without a marquee fight to put it over the top.

The headliner is a surprisingly crucial showdown between middleweight contenders, and further down the card, there are some fun action fights at welterweight and light heavyweight as those divisions sort themselves out. Add in a top prospect like Macy Chiasson and an undercard barnburner like Marc Diakiese-Lando Vannata, and this should be an excellent way to spend an afternoon.

Now to the UFC Fight Night “Hermansson vs. Cannonier” preview:

Middleweights

Jack Hermansson (20-4) vs. Jared Cannonier (12-4)

ODDS:

Hermansson (-240), Cannonier (+200)

It is a pleasant surprise when a contender comes out of nowhere to break into the divisional elite, and this main event manages to match two such fighters, who have gone from middling expectations to a headlining slot. Hermansson looked like he would settle in nicely to the middle tier at 185 pounds upon his arrival in the UFC. He used his herky-jerky kickboxing to score a win over Scott Askham in his debut, but a one-sided loss to Cezar Ferreira seemingly gave “The Joker” a clear ceiling. From there, Hermansson suddenly pivoted and became a ground-and-pound specialist, earning some brutal wins over Alex Nicholson and Bradley Scott before Thiago Santos served the Swede another one-sided loss. However, Hermansson continued along unabated, winning two more bouts on the strength of his ground game. In March, a 49-second guillotine submission of David Branch finally put Hermansson on the map as someone to watch. As it turns out, the timing of that win was particularly crucial, as it made Hermansson the best choice available for a quick turnaround in a main event against Ronaldo Souza less than a month later. It looked like a terrible matchup on paper -- Souza figured to be the worst possible opponent for someone who was increasingly relying on his grappling -- but Hermansson turned in a career-best performance, picking apart Souza on the feet, surviving and even taking over on the mat and generally wearing out the longtime middleweight contender on his way to a clear decision win. Hermansson still probably needs another win or two to get the public to believe in him as a true top contender rather than just a beneficiary of middleweight churn, but he gets a chance at a showcase at home in Scandinavia against Cannonier.

Cannonier has taken a weird route to becoming someone who matters, going all the way from an undersized low-tier heavyweight to an intimidating middleweight. At first, not much mind was paid to Cannonier. Coming off Alaska’s weak regional scene, he was quickly dispatched by Shawn Jordan in his UFC debut in 2015, then vanished for over a year due to injuries. Cannonier came back with a quick finish of Cyril Asker, but it was not until his light heavyweight debut against Ion Cutelaba that he seemed worth noticing, as he won a fun war that suggested he could provide some much-needed new blood for the division. Those hopes quickly fizzled out. Glover Teixeira handled him early on the mat, Jan Blachowicz neutralized him on the feet and Dominick Reyes simply took Cannonier out of the fight in short order. Then came the cut to 185 pounds. Cannonier was training for his middleweight debut on a different card, but after UFC 230 was reshuffled, he stepped in to face Branch and looked like a completely different human, shredded to the bone. At first, that newfound physique did not do him much good, as Branch managed to control the fight with his wrestling, but come the start of the second round, Cannonier absolutely obliterated the former two-division World Series of Fighting champion to announce his arrival as a middleweight contender. After that came a bout against Anderson Silva that, frankly, did not do anyone many favors. Cannonier did not exactly have the type of Q-rating to get people excited about a late-career Silva bout; and it was exactly the type of fight to get people talking more about Silva’s decline than Cannonier’s ascent, as the American simply picked apart “The Spider” with leg kicks until the middleweight legend crumpled to the mat with an injured knee. With that out of the way, Cannonier now looms as the wild card over the middleweight title picture, and a win here would do a ton towards proving he's a top contender.

It is still difficult to know what to make of Cannonier down at 185 pounds. His wrestling defense now looks like less of a problem than it was at light heavyweight. He still is not particularly impressive in that realm, but his increased strength at middleweight made it easier for him to get out of tough positions against Branch; and his power is obviously a plus, as those wins over Branch and Silva showed. Beyond that, there is not much to suggest how Cannonier will fare against quicker fighters who can provide either a fast pace or a depth of skill, both of which gave the Alaskan troubles up at 205 pounds. Hermansson should test all of that. Cannonier has typically had trouble with movement-heavy fighters on the feet -- or even fighters who can just jab -- and Hermansson’s unorthodox style should be difficult for Cannonier to track down. While Cannonier likely has the physical strength to keep the Swede from pinning him to the mat, Hermansson should be able to dictate the terms of the bout or even score a submission if he chooses to take things to the clinch or to the ground. Cannonier has the knockout power to change the tide of this fight with one punch, but Hermansson is more skilled everywhere. This could be a blowout, but the pick is for Hermansson to stay relatively cautious and earn a clear decision win.

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