(Guest editorial by Brandon Fu)
Dan “The Outlaw” Hardy at UFC Fight Night 24 on Saturday night lost his third consecutive fight, to super-sized welterweight contender Anthony “Rumble” Johnson. At this level of competition consistency is key and back to back losses is a quick way to set your career back to the minor leagues. MMA, however, is an individual sport. Every fighter is different and needs to be treated differently.
It took four straight losses before Keith Jardine got the boot. While Todd Duffee, a promising up-and-comer, who holds the record for the fastest knockout in the UFC (7 seconds), was handed his walking papers after his first loss in a fight that he was winning until he got caught with his hands down. Duffee’s release was later attributed to more of an attitude issue than a performance problem, but the loss was all the excuse needed to send him packing.
Dan Hardy is not Keith Jardine nor is he Todd Duffee. Hardy’s case should and will be handled differently than anyone else. His situation is as unique as his mohawk is red. To determine “The Outlaw’s” future with the UFC, we have to evaluate what he’s selling and if he can still close the deal.
Hardy’s product is brash, fun and entertaining. He burst into the MMA mainstream and quickly became a love him or hate him character. In the past, his ability to start and sell a fight has been nothing short of impressive.
He fast tracked himself to the Top 10 by starting a fight with then contender Marcus Davis. He sealed his number one contender status with a good performance against Mike Swick. At the pre-fight press conference of the Swick fight, Hardy gave Swick a Runners Up trophy. It was one of the funniest moves in pre-fight banter in the history of the sport. There was no doubt about Hardy’s ability to entertain. In the past, Hardy walked the talk, backing up his words with his in-Octagon actions.
Hardy has not been the same “Outlaw” since his loss to UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, the fight that started his recent skid. Hardy was the first Englishman to get a title shot in the UFC. Going into that bout, he was certainly himself. He had plenty to say about what he was going to do to GSP. He was also very much himself when he was unable to compete with GSP when it became a grappling match. While a very competent striker, Hardy has never been known for wrestling or jiu-jitsu. The GSP fight was one that most never really expected him to win. The loss is respectable considering that GSP is in the top two on most pound-for-pound lists. Despite the loss, Hardy showed a lot of heart and resiliency against the future hall of famer and I don’t think anyone weighs the loss too heavily against him.
Hardy’s next fight was against Carlos Condit. Condit had a couple tough wins in less-than-dominant performances as well as a close decision loss in his first few UFC fights. Coming in, Hardy was the favorite, being a man who just had a title shot. Hardy seemed especially motivated for this fight because Condit asked for him specifically. That seemed to bother Hardy and really fire him up. While respect was given from both sides, Hardy, as usual, had plenty to say about his opponent. Despite his talk, this time he was unable to back it up and found himself on the wrong end of the Knockout of the Night.
In his most recent outing against Anthony Johnson, there was very little talk. The usual amount of respect was given and a little fun was poked at Johnson’s weight issues, but other than that, Hardy was not very outspoken. Hardy lost this fight from bell to bell. After a feeling out process in the beginning of the first round, Johnson threw a high kick that Hardy blocked most of with his arm, but was knocked to the canvas regardless. The rest of the fight was spent with Hardy fighting off of his back, mostly playing defense and trying to get to his feet. It was not the stand-up war that everyone expected and it certainly was not a Fight of the Night candidate. Hardy failed to deliver on all of the things that fans have come to expect of him. He did not hype the fight with his usual trash talk, and, keeping in mind that it takes two people to make a fight, Hardy failed to deliver an exciting bout.
In his last few fights, Hardy hasn’t been the guy that made him popular. Can Dan still close the deal? Can he still get the fans to buy his product? Maybe you can attribute this recent lack of success to bad match-ups.
The fact is GSP has made a career out of being a bad match-up for anyone. Johnson was not a great match-up for Hardy either. Johnson is a much bigger guy who neutralized Hardy’s strength in striking with his own. He is also a much more skilled wrestler, which is what won him the fight. What about Condit? Hardy has always been known for his striking. He and Condit threw the same punch at the same time and Condit’s was faster and cleaner. Maybe Hardy’s frustration with Condit caused him to be reckless and he paid for it.
Despite his recent troubles, Hardy has done a very good job of selling fights and, typically, performing. Just barely one year ago, Hardy fought for the welterweight championship.
But, we’re not here to make excuses.
Can he get back to what made him such a huge success in the first place?
After three straight losses in the UFC, does Hardy deserve one last chance?