Jack Hermansson prepared to fight any one of three different challengers in the main event of UFC on ESPN 19. On Saturday, he’ll step into the Octagon against Marvin Vettori in a battle of middleweight contenders created by injuries and COVID-19.
The UFC originally scheduled a bout between Hermansson and Darren Till. That fell apart after Till withdrew due to an undisclosed injury.
Vettori Moves Up a Week to Battle Hermansson
Kevin Holland then stepped up to take the coveted main event spot. He tested positive for COVID-19 last weekend, forcing him to back out of the fight.
The UFC then turned to Vettori, who was preparing to fight Ronaldo Souza at UFC 256 on Dec. 12. A quick switch moved Holland into the Souza fight, keeping both high-profile matchups on their respective cards.
Because of the switch, Vettori (15-3-1) gains the chance to fight a top contender and earn a signature win that could see him rocket up from his current No. 13 ranking.
“My whole journey comes down to an opportunity like this,” Vettori told MMA Junkie. “It’s not a title fight, but this will get me higher ranked and right there in the mix. It comes down to opportunities, and I live for an opportunity like this, so I’m super happy.”
Hermansson (21-5) already sits in that rarified air. The UFC ranks him as the No. 4 contender for Israel Adesanya’s title. Hermansson has never fought for a UFC championship, but he’s won five of his last six bouts, with the only loss coming to No. 3 contender Jared Cannonier last year.
Shifting Opponents Complicates Preparations
Now, Hermansson sees his bout with Vettori as the next step to finally getting himself into the title mix.
“I want to fight with Adesanya,” Hermansson told MMA Junkie. “I feel like he fought Whittaker, he fought Paulo Costa. Cannonier is coming from a loss. So I could wait for ‘Izzy’ and give him his next title defense at middleweight after [he fights light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz]. If the UFC wants me to, I could fight Costa or Whittaker as a contender fight, as well.”
Despite being the higher-ranked fighter, Hermansson enters the bout as a slight underdog. FanDuel Sportsbook lists Vettori as the -136 favorite, with Hermansson fetching +116 odds. Vettori represents a difficult matchup, a southpaw fighter who should be able to physically contend with the Swede.
|UFC on ESPN 19 Odds (via FanDuel Sportsbook)|
|Jack Hermansson: +116||Marvin Vettori: -136|
|Ovince Saint Preux: +136||Jamahal Hill: -162|
|Montana De La Rosa: +154||Taila Santos: -184|
|Roman Dolidze: -184||John Allan: +154|
|Movsar Evloev: -560||Nate Landwehr: +420|
Hermansson faces another difficulty, too: the fact that he has now prepared for three different opponents.
“We had a very specific game plan for Darren Till. Then not that specific for Kevin Holland, and now, maybe a little bit more specific again, so that’s the approach,” Hermansson told MMA Junkie. “In this one, I feel like Marvin is pretty much the same in his fights. He has a certain style, so it’s a little bit easier to prepare for.”
Elsewhere on the card, light heavyweight contender Ovince St. Preux (+136) takes on the undefeated Jamahal Hill (-162), while Taila Santos (-184) takes on Montana De La Rosa (+154) in a women’s flyweight matchup.