Last night’s UFC on ESPN 4 fight card from San Antonio was kind of a mess. The opening nine bouts all went to the judges’ scorecards. Some of them were quality, back-and-forth fights and others showcased a strong performance from one fighter. Too many, sadly, were neither — they were slow and meandering and lacked a sense of urgency.
Luckily, there’s always the promise of the next fight delivering that special moment, brilliant technique, moment of drama, or sudden knockout that makes the expensive life of a mixed martial arts (MMA) fan worth living. To some extent, the top four fights on the main card delivered: Hooker’s hook was gorgeous, Harris’s 12-second knockout shockingly violent, and Edwards’ mastery of his craft was certainly fun to watch.
Greg Hardy provided the controversy and a big knockout of his own.
With Hardy in general, it’s never just about the fight itself given the domestic abuse allegations that will follow him forever. Each and every time “The Prince of War” makes an appearance inside the Octagon, the same three questions pop up.
In order, they are:
- Should Hardy be allowed to fight?
- Should Hardy be allowed to fight in the UFC?
- Should the UFC carefully invest in and promote Hardy?
Regardless of where you personally fall on that scale of Greg Hardy-tolerance, it’s important to note that more than just about any other sport, MMA has a tolerance for roughness. It’s a sport and culture that accepts and attracts outsiders. Really, anyone who can fight is accepted into the cage, regardless of sordid pasts, social status, or even mental stability. It’s the sport of second, third, and fourth chances — whether one likes it or not.
Given this long-established understanding that the athletes fighting inside the cage are possibly less than upstanding citizens, the real question presented here is whether or not Hardy can fight. Unfortunately for the people who responded “No!” to any part of the above scale, it’s hard to argue against him after last night’s victory.
Juan Adams, previous to this bout, had never been finished. In six fights, he stopped five of his opponents, losing a single bout to an Olympic wrestler in a bad decision that should’ve went his way. He’s a towering Heavyweight while still able to fight hard for three rounds. He should not have been an easy fight for a man who struggled with Allen Crowder.
But, he was. Hardy stung Adams early, stole his confidence, and threw him on his hip when Adams panicked his way into a single leg takedown. From there, Hardy rained down blows, quickly ending the fight. Hardy proved that he can fight.
Hardy has not, however, done anything in any way to improve his image in the eyes of detractors. The man still has no control in the cage: the first five-or-so blows that initiated the finishing sequence seemed to be directly to the back of the head. Those may have been the shots that first hurt Adams and left him vulnerable to the rest of the barrage. Other referees may have administered more than a warning, potentially stopping the fight and actually doing their job.
It’s not a good look for Hardy to be building on his reputation for illegal blows when so many are already against him. It’s likely a worse look to lick the blood from his gloves like he’s BJ Penn and walk around snarling, generally looking the psychopath that he promises is a past self.
Read the room man.
None of that ultimately matters though — Hardy proved he can fight, and by the nature of that alone, he has earned his spot on MMA’s Island of Misfit Toys. Unless he does something truly outrageous or very illegal, he’s likely to stay for quite a while: Heavyweights can hang around the roster for decades.