Part two of a three part series. Part one looked at John Hathaway, part three will look at Michael Bisping.
It has been close to seven months since Dan Hardy has been in the cage and that was not a particularly good night for the British welterweight. Georges St. Pierre was able to take down Hardy at will and control every second of the fight. Still, Hardy gained respect from many fans by surviving two very deep submission attempts and never seeming to be willing to accept the loss, going for the win at all times.
The GSP fight was not a surprise to anyone, Hardy has looked good in several fights but had still earned his way to the title shot with a 4-0 record that included split decision wins over Akihiro Gono and Marcus Davis. Personally, I thought that Hardy won both of those fights so it wasn't as though he hadn't "earned" his shot but it was clear that against mid-level welterweights there were moments when he had not been able to utilize his skills effectively enough to clearly win fights.
Still, Hardy has a significant amount of talent and it has shown itself in fights like his UFC 105 scrap with Mike Swick where he was able to repeatedly hurt the heavy favorite (Swick came in anywhere from a -255 to -325 favorite) and showed good control in the clinch and solid work against the cage. It's the space on the outside of the Octagon where Hardy seems to be at his best, using the fence to allow him to press forward and keep his opponent at some degree of disadvantage.
Also, Hardy has very solid "striker's timing" which aside from his power may be his best asset. That doesn't mean he simply knows when to punch but that he knows when to move. This moment from the Marcus Davis fight shows a good example of knowing when to close the distance and avoid the strike, get the clinch and then land a knee using Davis' own momentum:
Against Carlos Condit at UFC 120 it will be up to Hardy to make sure that he uses this timing to not find himself in dumb exchanges where Condit can score with his own hard strikes or score a takedown. On the ground Condit is going to be much more aggressive in his striking than GSP was when on top of Hardy and it will mean a lot of trouble for the Brit.
This is the fight in knowing who Dan Hardy is in the welterweight division. There's no shame in not being the guy to bump the best welterweight the sport has seen from his throne, but a win over Condit proves Hardy as a guy who will likely be near the top of the division for a long time. A loss and we will have to rethink exactly what it is that "The Outlaw" brings to the table.