This Saturday the biggest UFC event of the year will include a main event that pits division king, Georges “Rush” St-Pierre, against number one contender Dan “The Outlaw” Hardy. Depending on your source, Dan Hardy is between a 7-1 and 9-1 underdog coming in. That is mostly due to his relative early rise to the title picture. Georges St-Pierre, though, is coming off of a dominating title defense over Thiago Alves at last year’s UFC 100, an opponent that was supposed to be his stiffest test to date. Yet GSP was able to take Alves down at will, using his mix between ground and pound and ground control to win another unanimous decision.
When taking a closer look at Dan Hardy’s resume, especially in the UFC, you will quickly find out why he is here, and how he got here so soon. His debut for the promotion was back in October 2008 against Akihiro Gono, he came out of that fight with a decision win and little buzz. His next bout was the noise maker, when he viciously knocked Rory Markham out at UFC 95 in just over a minute. His opening comments in his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan says it all “No punching power, huh?” Apparently Markham had been talking trash about Hardy’s ability to knock someone unconscious, which is exactly what he did. Later that night at the post-fight press conference Hardy called out Marcus Davis. Hardy claimed that Davis was a phony UK fan favorite, and also a phony Irish-man. Davis, notoriously, didn’t take those comments too well. The two went back and forth for weeks and weeks, creating a lot of buzz around the fight which was set for UFC 99.
Hardy had trouble with Davis at first, getting taken down a couple times but still managing to dodge any real damage. It was apparent very early on in the fight that Hardy, surprisingly, had the stand-up advantage over the former pro-boxer. He caught Davis with a good elbow towards the end of the first round that turned out to be the most effective blow of the round. The second round was way better for Hardy. Early on he caught Davis with a vicious knee that sent Davis to the ground and Hardy on top of him dropping heavy hammer fists. Davis, like he always seems to do, regained control and eventually worked himself out of the bad position. At the end of the second round Davis looked to be coming back but it was too little too late. The beginning of the third round was almost exactly like the fight started out. Davis got a few takedowns and was able to control Hardy for the most part. Hardy eventually back to his feet where he continued to get the best of Davis. At the end of the third round Hardy landed several vicious elbows from inside Davis’ guard that really cut him up good causing the ref to pause the action to get the cut cleaned and checked out. When Davis tried to stand-up, he was very wobbly and no doubt felt the effects of the beating Hardy had given him. The judges gave Hardy a very close split decision, but with Davis’ “spaghetti leg” incident in the third round, you can’t really blame them.
Since GSP suffered a torn groin during his title defense over Thiago Alves at UFC 100, it gave the UFC welterweight division time to find a new number one contender for the champion, which came in the form of a very compelling fight between Mike Swick and Martin Kampmann. But just weeks before the fight Kampmann had to pull out due to injury, so in stepped “The Outlaw”. Coming into their fight at UFC 105 Swick was the favorite as he was expected to outclass Hardy right out of the title picture. Not so fast. Hardy clearly rocked Swick in the opening seconds of the fight with a counter right hand. Swick was caught off guard and it seemed to set the tone for the rest of the fight as Swick was really unable to do anything to Hardy. On the other side of the coin though, Hardy seemed to have an off game plan in mind for Swick. After rocking Swick each time Hardy would push him up against the cage and fight for a takedown. Nonetheless he won a clear decision over the favored Swick and after the fight it was announced that he would be challenging GSP for the title sometime in the future. Gee, how lucky for him, right?
In the past few weeks we’ve learned that Dan Hardy has enlisted the help of the only man to ever knock GSP out, and the last person to defeat him, Matt Serra. It’s unclear weather their relationship will have a direct effect on the outcome of the fight, but one has to think that Serra has given Hardy all his info on the champ. That’s got to be at least helpful for a man coming into a fight as a 8-1 underdog for some. GSP and team don’t seem to be over-looking Hardy, rather they see this opportunity as a chance to let GSP’s skills shine even more so than in the past. That could be scary for Hardy. But with the help of Spike TV’s series “Primetime” we’ve gotten a closer look at who Dan Hardy is as a martial artist. One of the most remember able moments of this Primetime series could be when GSP said something to the tune of “I am a martial artist, Dan Hardy is not. He probably doesn’t know the meaning of this, but after the fight he will” in episode one. Later on in the series we learned that this is pretty far from the actual truth. Dan Hardy started his martial arts training at the age of 6. His continuous training eventually brought him to China, to train with Shaolin Monks for a month. Since then Hardy stopped competing in traditional martial arts competitions because of what he calls a “changing of the rules”. He loved to brawl, and that particular kind of competition didn’t allow him to fully unleash himself. After years and years of experience in the UK and in other smaller promotions, Hardy found himself in the UFC, and now in the biggest fight of his life.
So what’s it gonna be? Are we going to see GSP further instill his legacy in the hearts and minds of MMA fans all around the world, or will lightening strike twice? (so to speak). Is this the new age of a new breed in the welterweight division, or just another mark on GSP’s belt? For Hardy, it may only take one punch, and for GSP it could only take one mistake. At this level of the game anyone is a challenge, anyone can be a threat, and anyone can be beaten. We’ll find out which it’ll be this Saturday.