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Hardy of Five: 'The Outlaw' gets next crack at St. Pierre dynasty - by default


Ask the pundits to measure the worth of an up-and-coming fighter and they're likely to grade him on a scale of one to five. Has he beaten anyone ranked in the top five of his weight class?

Sometimes it may not matter.

When a fighter is presented as a division's number one contender, it usually carries with it the presumption that said fighter has separated himself from his peers -- usually by force.

There was little argument that Thiago Alves was the right man to face current UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre at UFC 100 back on July 11.

What will the argument be for Dan Hardy when he faces "Rush" in Spring 2010?

My argument is that Dan Hardy, sans divisional terror, has earned his crack at the crown by doing his job. He fights, he wins, he moves on. Has he floored a big name competitor with a devastating head kick? Not yet. Has he subbed a competent grappler to escape the jaws of defeat?

Not exactly.

What he did do, is defeat the surging Mike Swick at UFC 105: "Couture vs. Vera" on Nov. 14. For "The Outlaw," it was his fourth straight victory inside the Octagon since his debut win over Akihiro Gono at UFC 89: "Bisping vs. Leben" back in October 2008. It wasn't a particularly memorable performance, but it was good enough to snag a unanimous decision.

That has to count for something.

Fickle fans have come to be spoiled by the dominance of their current champions. Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva are so far and above most of the competitive population, they've practically held their divisions hostage since their ascensions to the throne.

Unfortunately they've become victims of their own dominance.

Is Dan Hardy to blame for the tepid reaction to his shot at the big time? No. Neither is UFC matchmaker Joe Silva. There's only so much magic in that man's wand -- the rest is up to the talent.

If I blame anyone, it's St. Pierre, for being that damn good.

Only the memory of Matt Serra keeps my interest in a future "Rush" fight. Lightning never strikes twice in the same place, but if the tiniest hint of vulnerability exists in the GSP armor, I'll continue to tune in for another potential upset.

For Anderson Silva, that may require a flak cannon and Faraday's law of induction.

Dan Hardy is the UFC welterweight number one contender -- by default. The division has long been a revolving door of adequate talent, but of the consensus top five, all but Jake Shields have faced the venerable St. Pierre.

And that's only because Shields fights outside of the promotion.

I'll take Dan Hardy over a Jon Fitch rematch. The wrestling phenom has accomplished more inside the Octagon than Hardy has, but his first attempt at dethroning GSP ended so violently, I hear it's part of the deleted scenes on the upcoming Saw VI DVD.

I would have preferred St. Pierre vs. Swick, but the Texan couldn't get the job done when it counted. Same goes for Martin Kampmann. Anthony Johnson? Diffuse the wrestling of Josh Koscheck -- then plead your case.

Dan Hardy has both the look and the personality to help sell a fight. He's also beaten some stiff competition that while not top of the food chain, was tough enough to prove "The Outlaw" can take some punishment just as well as he can dish it out. Does any of that mean he's good enough to win the UFC welterweight title this Spring?

Probably not, but that doesn't mean he hasn't earned the chance to try.

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