Right after UFC on Fuel TV 5: "Struve vs. Miocic" last night (Sept. 29, 2012) in Nottingham, England, Dan Hardy received quite a bit of praise for his "smarter" approach in his fight against Amir Sadollah, despite doing very little that should actually leave an impression. He didn't get an impressive finish, he won a forgettable decision over a weak competitor, and he didn't look all that terrific doing it.
Not one component of "The Outlaw's" game yesterday looked like he had become Dan Hardy 2.0. His striking was the same old, same old with a slow start and an ever predictable left hook (which is actually a pretty good component in his game, but nothing new). He took it slow against Sadollah, dropping the first round but taking the next two with an unambitious approach that didn't allow him to finish.
Apparently, at least according to commentators, takedowns and clinches are new to Hardy's game, despite the fact that he's used them constantly in other fights. The post-fight FUEL analysis team of Chael Sonnen, Rashad Evans, and Jay Glazer made sure you knew this represented a significant improvement in Hardy's game, as did Kenny Florian and Jon Anik mid-fight.
What really irks me about this presumption is that it's completely false, and that these takedowns and clinches actually take away from Hardy's performances, as they have for a very long time. The Brit has gone for takedowns against six of his last eight opponents, and in the same stretch has gone 4-4, all four losses coming consecutively.
His takedowns and clinch attempts are puzzling, and perhaps even frustrating, because they tend to happen just as he has a fighter hurt. He did this against Marcus Davis, he did it against Mike Swick, and now, for some reason, it was a good thing.
Just because a striker incorporates takedowns into his game doesn't mean he has better fight IQ. If he does it when his opponent is rocked, it's more of a detriment to his fight IQ if anything.
In addition to letting fighters off the hook by initiating grappling exchanges, Hardy has also gone for some of the most ill-advised takedowns you'll ever see, especially his takedown attempt of Chris Lytle which led to him being finished by guillotine with only seconds remaining in the third and final round of a close fight.
Hardy has done nothing to convince me that he wouldn't do something like that again.
Beyond the falsehood that is the idea of his wrestling adding to his fight IQ, his striking seems to have regressed slightly as he's come along. He benefited from aggression earlier in his career, whereas his attempts to play the countering game have cost him recently. Maybe getting too wild and aggressive is what led to him getting knocked out brutally by Carlos Condit, but that doesn't mean he has to be so laid back. At times, Hardy completely disengages for very long periods of time, when it's very clear that with a little pressure he could look far more impressive.
In the first round against Sadollah, even considering that Hardy said he was coasting, he was losing to a fighter who is not all that good, being beaten to the punch and backed up throughout the round. His only reliable go-to technique in striking is his lead left hook, but he made it all too predictable by going for it over and over.
My final point here is that it's impossible to look impressive in victory over Sadollah. While Amir is a nice guy and very likeable, he is a lower to mid tier fighter at best, and he just doesn't have what it takes to beat legitimately good opposition.
Dan Hardy was supposed to defeat Amir Sadollah, and that he did. But even dropping a round to Amir makes me skeptical of Hardy's prowess as a fighter. His takedowns and clinches which ended striking exchanges were poorly timed and nothing new to his game, and his striking just didn't look all that great for a specialist.
Despite what some guys getting their paychecks signed by the UFC may tell you, Michael Bisping is probably the only promise in all of England right now. It's clear they want to promote Hardy as much as possible, but to promote a fictitious "Hardy 2.0" is just hogwash.
Dan will probably thrive against the lowest tier in the UFC, as he has in his current two fight win streak, but he will never become much more than a middling fighter.