An unusual journey to Saturday's UFC Fight Night main event between Jack Hermansson and Marvin Vettori didn't stand in the way of a great fight. After five rounds of fast-paced action -- and more significant strikes than any middleweight fight in UFC history -- it was Vettori who had his hand raised after a unanimous decision victory.
Hermansson was originally scheduled to face Darren Till in the main event from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas before Till was forced out of the event due to injury. Next, a fight with Kevin Holland fell through less than week before the event, but Vettori was able to step up. Vettori had already been training for a three-round fight with Jacare Souza at UFC 256 on Dec. 12, but agreed to the five rounder with Hermansson on short notice.
The fight didn't seem like it was destined to go past the first round. A competitive early striking battle had both men landing meaningful shots before Vettori unleashed a hard straight left hand from his southpaw stance, dropping Hermansson to the canvas. Vettori followed him to the ground and unloaded with a series of hard strikes on the ground before switching to a pair of attempts to lock in a guillotine choke, ultimately failing to put his vulnerable opponent away.
That straight left remained a key attack for Vettori through the fight, possibly a product of the opponent changes Hermansson had dealt with in the lead to the event. While movement to his right would be standard defense against an orthodox fighter, Hermansson taking that path in striking exchanges led his head directly in the path of Vettori's best weapon.
As the minutes ticked away, Hermansson fought his way back into the fight, working more frequent combinations on the feet as his takedown attempts had found no success. Vettori didn't back down as Hermansson's pressure turned up on the feet, meeting his more highly ranked opponent strike-for-strike, including in a wild final round where both connected with significant flurries of power strikes while standing toe to toe.
After the fight, Hermansson limped to his corner, a combination of fatigue from 25 minutes of action and damage sustained through the fight. The pain wasn't eased by the official scorecards, which read 49-46, 49-46 and 49-45, all for Vettori.
"I'm going to tell you the truth, I don't feel great," Vettori said after his victory. "I don't think I did a very good job. I feel like I could do much better. But, man, this guy is tough. I thought I dropped him in the first and thought I was going to finish him but he came back and his ground game was solid. ... It was a hell of a fight. I improved a lot tonight."
Vettori is now riding a four-fight winning streak and called out recent title challenger Paulo Costa for his next fight, a bout that would move him closer to a shot at middleweight champ Israel Adesanya.