In the main event of this Sunday's UFC on Versus 5 card, Dan Hardy and Chris Lytle meet in a Welterweight contest. Stylistically, it's a good fight, with two men who tend to deliver excitement, both hungry for a win. But as a main event it is perhaps a bit of a strange choice, as both men are coming in off of losses, meaning the loser will add another consecutive loss to his record. This should be especially troubling for Hardy, who already is on a three fight losing streak. A fourth straight loss would be devastating, and so we have to ask:
Is Dan Hardy fighting for his job this Sunday?
It's odd to think of a main eventer on the chopping block, but consider Hardy's situation. Coming into the UFC in 2008, Hardy won his first four fights, earning a reputation as a heavy handed power puncher, despite only stopping one of those four opponents. The wins earned him a shot at Georges St. Pierre, more out of necessity than anything else. In that fight, Hardy turned in a game performance, gutting his way through some nasty submission attempts en route to losing a decision.
Since the GSP fight, things have not gone so well. His return fight saw him knocked out by Carlos Condit, and he followed that up with a lopsided decision loss to Anthony Johnson. Both were troubling losses. The Condit fight caused some to question his chin, while the Johnson loss exposed huge holes in his wrestling. To Hardy's credit, he has since acknowledged those flaws in his wrestling, and has changed his training accordingly, moving to Las Vegas to train wrestling and grappling with Roy Nelson. He also seems very aware of his situation, telling ESPN, "I've got to get things back on track, and I'm in the right place to do it."
So far, Hardy has managed to avoid the chopping block, largely because of his marketability. He's a big personality who hypes fights well, and he's a draw for the UK market. But at some point that marketability is just not enough - you need to back it up with wins.
On Sunday, when Dan Hardy stands across the cage from Chris Lytle, it will be nearly two years since his last victory. Expect him to come out like a man fighting for his life - because that's exactly what he is.