Hermansson spoils Souza’s title plans, rolls to win

Sometimes the alligator chew up its prey. Sometimes the alligator is the prey.

The latter was the case for much of Saturday night’s main event. Jack Hermansson got the better of Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza in the standup and even against the Brazilian’s vaunted ground game to earn a unanimous decision in the UFC Fight Night headliner at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida.

As a result, there would be no cold-blooded alligator pantomime celebration this time by Souza, whose nickname means “alligator” in Portuguese. A celebration on this night would have served a dual purpose, as Souza, who came in ranked No. 3 in ESPN’s middleweight rankings, had been promised a title shot with a victory over 10th-ranked Hermansson.

But Hermansson (20-4), who had fought just 28 days earlier in a submission win over David Branch on March 30, spoiled those plans by fearlessly venturing into the danger zone of grappling against Souza, a five-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion who is one of the most masterful practitioners of ground fighting in MMA.

Hermansson took down Souza in the first round and threatened a guillotine choke, and he spent much of Round 2 on top of Souza, landing punches from full guard. This is an uncommon tactic against Souza, to say the least.

“I was hoping for an early finish,” said Hermansson, a 30-year-old who was born in Sweden but fights out of Norway, after his fourth straight win. “I like to finish fights, but I hope it was impressive anyway.”

Hermansson’s 148 significant strikes landed are a five-round UFC middleweight record, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. He attempted 496 total strikes Saturday, the fourth-highest total in a UFC fight in any weight class. Three times he took down Souza, who until surrendering one takedown in his previous fight had never been taken to the canvas in 11 UFC bouts.

Souza (26-7, 1 NC) did find a second wind after Hermansson’s early onslaught and carried Round 3. He appeared to be turning the tide. But Hermansson, known as “The Joker,” retook control for the championship rounds to sew up the decision. Two judges scored the fight 48-47 in his favor, and one had it 49-46.

“I’m really happy to be here and really show every single one in the world watching MMA that I am a force to be reckoned with,” Hermansson said. “I am a title contender.”

Hermansson said he would like to headline an October fight card in Copenhagen, Denmark, although the UFC has yet to announce such an event.

“Give me a top name,” he said. “What I ask from the UFC is to get the names that will get me to the title. I’m obsessed with the title. That’s what I want in this sport.”

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