Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight hitters Greg Hardy and Allen Crowder will collide this Saturday (Jan. 19, 2019) at UFC Fight Night 143 inside Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
It’s really pretty fascinating, as well as indicative of poor-decision making, that the primary conversation around UFC’s first-ever event on the new ESPN deal revolves around domestic violence. Placing Hardy — a completely unproven and undeserving prospect — as the co-main only exacerbates the outrage. Of course, this is mixed martial arts (MMA), so if the former footballer lands a brutal knockout, all will be unfortunately probably be forgotten and forgiven by most. Hoping to defy the betting odds is Allen Crowder, a relatively inexperienced Heavyweight himself. “Pretty Boy” is looking for his first UFC victory, but he’ll definitely be forced to overcome a major athletic disadvantage here.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Austen Lane (DWTNCS 2018), Tebaris Gordon (DWTNCS 2018)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Hardy may not be worthy of this co-main event slot, but he’s shown the talent worthy of a UFC slot considering Heavyweight’s dismal state. Counting his amateur record, Hardy has won six fights total, and no foe was able to escape the first five minutes.
Hardy is really not at the point where a detailed strategy is possible or even necessary. He’s a tremendously athletic fighter, a shockingly fast fighter who still tops out the Heavyweight limit. Oh, and that 80-inch reach certainly doesn’t hurt, either.
Truthfully, the best comparison is Brock Lesnar, whose inexperience in combat sports was obvious from his first thrown punch yet did not stop Lesnar from overwhelming foes. Hardy seems fearless in the Octagon — though we’ll see if that holds up whenever he actually gets hit hard — swarming opponents with massively powerful punches.
Crowder has been stopped by strikes in each of his three losses, meaning he’s probably not the man who can avoid the early swarm.
Key Wins: Dontel Mayes (DWTNCS 2017)
Key Losses: Justin Willis (UFC 218), Curtis Blaydes (Battle in the South 10)
Keys to Victory: Crowder is a large underdog, but hardly a pushover. “Big Pretty” will not be terribly out-sized against Hardy, and he has finished all but one of his past victories. Plus, two of those three losses came to a very high level of competition — Crowder has a significant experience edge.
Surviving the early storm is very obviously the key to victory here. Hardy is going to come out of the gates swinging, and Crowder’s reaction determines his fate. If he tries to swing back, his odds take a nosedive. Why trade with the faster, more powerful athlete?
Instead, stalling is vital. Hardy has hardly been out of the first minute, let alone the first round, and Crowder is a better wrestler/grappler than any of Hardy’s past opponents. There’s a distinct possibility Hardy will be too explosive to take down early, but so what? Latching onto the big man and forcing him to fight off the clinch is a much safer way to force him to expend energy.
Clinch, wrestle, and don’t let go. If Crowder can force the pace to slow down and avoid eating big shots early, Hardy’s athleticism will vanish as he tastes MMA fatigue for the first time in a real fight.
Bottom Line: Like it or not, Hardy’s debut is a big deal and will draw eyes to the event.
There’s still a ton of unknowns about Greg Hardy. Is he consistent and serious in the gym or solely relying on his athleticism? How will his cardio hold up in a fight that goes beyond a couple minutes? Can the former professional football player keep it together outside of the Octagon?
This fight is unlikely to answer all those questions, but it should help illuminate where Hardy’s current abilities stand and how high his ceiling is. A win will see Hardy continue to climb the ladder, whereas a loss is a clear sign that Hardy needs more time against lesser opposition before challenging true UFC fighters.
As for Crowder, it’s a major opportunity even if he’s been set up to fail. At 29 years of age, Crowder is largely in the same situation as Hardy, just with fewer eyes on him. A win will gain Crowder a great deal of recognition and confirm his position on the roster, whereas a second consecutive loss is a sign that he needs more time on the regional scene.
At UFC Fight Night 143, Greg Hardy will make his debut opposite Allen Crowder. Which man will prove his place in the Heavyweight division?