Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight veterans David Branch and Jack Hermansson will collide this Saturday (March 30, 2019) at UFC on ESPN 2 from Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
A professional now for more than one decade, Branch dominated both the World Series of Fighting (WSOF) Light Heavyweight and Middleweight divisions before joining UFC again in 2017. He’s been unable to replicate that success inside the Octagon, splitting four fights evenly. Meanwhile, Hermansson seems to be coming into his prime. The Swede has won four of his previous fights, ending each of those wins before the final bell against an increasing level of competition. More than anything else, Hermansson really seems to know where he wants to take the fight … and it’s paying off big time.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Thiago Santos (UFC Fight Night 128), Krzysztof Jotko (UFC 211), Yushin Okami (WSOF 15), Vinny Magalhaes (WSOF 33)
Key Losses: Luke Rockhold (UFC Fight Night 116), Jared Cannonier (UFC 230)
Keys to Victory: Branch is a very skilled and well-rounded fighter if somewhat limited by his athletic abilities. Branch can box smartly and time a double leg well, but the black belt is best known for his dominating top game.
This is a rather different challenge for Branch. Many of his fights come against men looking to sprawl-and-brawl, while Hermansson is likely to be quite willing to wrestle with him. Both men will look to gain top position, and whoever wins that wrestling battle is likely to control the fight.
To that end, it would greatly benefit Branch if he can dictate range with the jab. For big men like these two, a kick is almost an invitation to catch the leg and wrestle — the jab will be the most important range tool. If it’s Branch who’s landing the jab more frequently, he’ll be able to read Hermansson’s takedown attempts, defend/counter, and set up his own with far greater ease.
Key Wins: Thales Leites (UFC 224), Gerald Meerschaert (UFC on FOX 31), Alex Nicholson (UFC Fight Night 109)
Key Losses: Thiago Santos (UFC Fight Night 119), Cezar Ferreira (UFC Fight Night 100)
Keys to Victory: A few fights back, Hermansson made the bold claim that, “his top game was the most dominant in the division,” which seemed ridiculous at the time. Each of his last four wins came via top position mauling though — “The Joker” is making his argument one fight at a time.
To defeat a real technician in Branch, Hermansson should do his best to ensure this fight is more of a scrap than chess match. A slow-paced, tit-for-tat match favors the man with all the experience — a wild, bloody war of attrition favors the younger man who’s also the better athlete.
Hermansson needs to take the fight to Branch. Throw power punches in bunches, wrestle for takedowns along the fence, force his foe to work constantly — something’s going to give. Hermansson has proven his toughness and ability to push hard for three rounds, whereas Branch seems less durable at 37 years of age.
Bottom Line: It’s a vital fight for each man.
Since rejoining UFC’s roster, Branch’s aspirations have been the belt. Unfortunately, it really has not worked out for him. A loss to Luke Rockhold is forgivable, but a second knockout loss to Jared Cannonier on short-notice really hurt Branch’s title hopes. Two defeats in four fights puts Branch in a truly precarious position: there is no more room for error if he’s to remain in the rankings and keep hope alive.
It’s a different story for Hermansson, who is still looking for that breakout win. His performances recently have been genuinely impressive, giving him momentum and earning him a shot at a ranked foe. It’s a clear opportunity for Hermansson to replace his opponent in the rankings, which will put the Swede much closer to his goal of being a title contender.
At UFC on ESPN 2, David Branch and Jack Hermansson will throw down in the co-main event. Which man will advance up the Middleweight ladder?