UFC President Dana White has said a lot over the past few weeks, and it’s worth repeating here: just make it by 2020.
It’s safe to say that the UFC has done an excellent job this year as part of a pandemic, and has almost reached the finish line for 2020 with three events remaining. But just to say the obvious, it’s been a difficult task lately.
Saturday’s UFC Fight Night features a major middleweight event between title contender Jack Hermansson (21-5) and Marvin Vettori (15-3-1). Hermansson was originally supposed to face Darren Till in the main event. Then Kevin Holland. Now Vettori. The last two games fell apart due to injuries and COVID-19.
The last six UFC cards of the year have all seen changes to their main events – and we’ve seen everything from Paul Felder battling a former lightweight champion five days in advance to flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo who was two Titles agreed to defense within 21 days (the fastest turnaround in UFC cover history).
The attraction of the changing main event on Saturday lies in its one constant: Hermansson, who is firmly in the title fight with 185 pounds. He’s # 6 in the ESPN middleweight division. One could easily argue that the Swedish-born fighter from Norway is the toughest stylistic matchup for Master Israel Adesanya, with three first-round wins in his last five fights.
The 32-year-old Hermansson has everything to lose against Vettori, who is not in the top 10 but could prove to be an integral part of that rankings in the coming years. Confident and round, the 27-year-old Italian beat Adesanya two years ago.
It’s a £ 185 matchup between a competitor who will face his third opponent in less than a month and a hopeful who has a lot to gain from fighting on a short-term basis. Such circumstances prove to be the norm as the UFC closes the most unique year in its history.
For a good cause: Fight Like Hell Night
On December 7, 2019, ESPN and the UFC celebrated Stuart Scott with a fight night dedicated to him, which ended with a big knockout by Jairzinho Rosenstruik.
The UFC is dedicating this fight night to the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund, which was founded in memory of the ESPN personality who died of cancer. Scott had a strong connection with mixed martial arts and even exercised during his treatment.
The UFC will contribute $ 100,000 to life-saving research funded by the Scott Fund. He supports African American, Hispanic, and other minority researchers, as well as research that examines the biology behind why some cancers are more common, or more aggressive or harder to treat, in some minorities. During the broadcast on Saturday, the UFC will encourage fans to support this research.
Viewers can support the campaign by visiting v.org/ufc.
By the numbers
0: Fighters from Italy who topped UFC cards. Vettori will be the first and a win would tie the Trento native to Alessio Sakara to get the most wins in an Italian’s octagon at six.
8th: Hermansson ends the UFC, just two behind Derek Brunson, Thiago Santos and Jacare Souza, the leaders among the active middleweights. Five of Hermansson’s finishes have arrived in the first round, leading us to …
7:28: Average fight time in the UFC for Hermansson in minutes and seconds. It is the fifth shortest among active 185 pounders.
67.1: Percentage of opponent attempts to hit avoided by Vettori in his UFC matches, the best defense among active midweights and the second best of all time, behind Chael Sonnen with 67.7%.
2.56: Hermansson landed significant hits every minute for everyone he absorbed in his UFC bouts. It’s the same differential as Santos’; You are tied for the highest in middleweight history.
Sources: ESPN Stats & Information and UFC Stats
Five against five
Jack Hermansson’s recent results
Prize: Kelvin Gastelum (Sub1, July 19, 2020; see ESPN +)
Loss: Jared Cannonier (TKO2, September 28, 2019; see ESPN +)
Prize: Jacare Souza (UD, April 27, 2019; see ESPN +)
Prize: David Branch (Sub1, March 30, 2019; see ESPN +)
Victory: Gerald Meerschaert (Sub1, December 15, 2018)
Marvin Vettori’s recent results
Victory: Karl Roberson (Sub1, June 13, 2020; see ESPN +)
Prize: Andrew Sanchez (UD, October 12, 2019; see ESPN +)
Victory: Cezar Ferreira (UD, July 13, 2019; see ESPN +)
Loss: Israel Adesanya (SD, April 14, 2018)
Draw: Omari Akhmedov (MD, December 30, 2017)
And the winner is …
Vettori feels like a trendy choice right now, and it’s easy to see why. It’s very, very good and has been underrated in the past. Therefore, it has been corrected how fans and media see him. He is round and extremely confident. I’m as high on Vettori as almost anyone else out there, but he’s fighting another underrated middleweight, Hermansson. It’s kind of a coin toss but I think the five rounds favor Hermansson, as does the fact that Vettori wasn’t supposed to fight until January. Hermansson by decision.
How to watch the fights
Watch the fights on ESPN2: Download the ESPN App | download WatchESPN | Television program. Don’t have ESPN2? Get instant access.
Watch the fighting on ESPN +. If you don’t have ESPN +, Get it here.
There is also FightCenter, Here you can find live updates for every UFC card.
Battle card from Saturday
ESPN2 / ESPN +, 10 p.m. ET
Jack Hermansson versus Marvin Vettori | medium weight
Ovince Saint Preux versus Jamahal Hill | Light heavyweight
Gabriel Benitez versus Justin Jaynes | Light
Montana De La Rosa versus Taila Santos | Women’s flyweight
Roman Dolidze versus John Allan | Light heavyweight
Movsar Evloev versus Nate Landwehr | Men’s featherweight
ESPN2 / ESPN +, 7 p.m. ET
Louis Smolka versus Jose Quinonez | Men bantamweight
Matt Wiman versus Jordan Leavitt | Light
Jimmy Flick versus Cody Durden | Flyweight of the men
Ilia Topuria versus Damon Jackson | Men’s featherweight
Gian Villante versus Jake Collier | Heavyweight
Five More Things to Know (from ESPN Stats & Information)
1. Five fighters will set unbeaten records on Saturday night: Jamahal Hill (7-0, 1 NC), who competes in the light heavyweight co-main event against Ovince Saint Preux; 205 pounder Roman Dolidze (7-0), who fights John Allan; Movsar Evloev (13-0), who opened the main card as a 6-to-1 favorite against featherweight Nate Landwehr; Jordan Leavitt (7-0), who makes his UFC debut against veteran Matt Wiman; and featherweight Ilia Topuria (9-0) taking on Damon Jackson.
2. Saint Preux will try to win consecutive fights for the first time since 2017. In total, however, OSP has 13 light heavyweight wins, making it the fourth most in the division’s history. He has reached the second-highest place in division history behind Glover Teixeiras 12 in 11 of these victories.
3. While Nigeria was in the spotlight in 2019 and Israel won Adesanya and Kamaru Usman championships, 2020 could be the year of Georgia. At this event Georgian fighters are 11: 1 in the octagon, with Dolidze and Topuria preferring to win on Saturday.
4th Facing flyweight Taila Santos, Montana De La Rosa will seek to join Gillian Robertson as the only female fighter in UFC history to win four bouts by submission.
5. Jake Collier meets Gian Villante in the opening match of the evening. It is Collier’s second heavyweight fight. If Collier wins, he will become the 13th fighter in UFC history to win fights in three divisions.
ESPN’s Jeff Wagenheim contributed to this bout preview.