Most fans didn't give Dan Hardy a chance against Georges St. Pierre back at UFC 111. In fact, most of the betting lines heading into the March 27th showdown in Newark, New Jersey gave St. Pierre the edge by nearly 7-to-1 odds. The fight was considered a one-sided rout before it was even fought, and for the most part -- St. Pierre delivered what fans expected. The outcome further solidified St. Pierre's legacy as one of the all-time best to ever grace the Octagon, and Hardy faded into the pack as an afterthought.
Perhaps I'm being a bit dramatic in the opinion that Hardy has fallen into the darkness however. It isn't so much an observation against Hardy himself, but more of a broader theory that many fans feel disinterested in a division that doesn't seem to have much give at the apex. St. Pierre, in all his might and ability, is as tough as they come, and his only true challenge at this point in his career is a well-prepared Josh Koscheck. But that story will unfold in due time.
For now, the division still has some interesting battles unfolding below the champion's tier, and it isn't unfathomable that the youthful talent rising through the ranks will someday dethrone St. Pierre. Saturday's UFC 120 features one of those intriguing match-ups as former WEC Welterweight champion Carlos Condit (25-5, 2-1 UFC) battles former UFC Welterweight title contender Dan Hardy (23-7-0-1, 4-1 UFC). Hardy, as aforementioned, is coming into the contest following a definitive decision loss to Georges St. Pierre at UFC 111, a fight that saw one judge score the bout 50-43 in favor of St. Pierre.
While the bout certainly didn't go Hardy's way, he didn't look completely ineffective. He did manage to escape to his feet on more than one occasion, showed some gutsy resolve in escaping submissions, and continually tried to find a way to win over the course of five rounds. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough, and he'll now aim to find the motivation to work his way back into the title picture with a victory over Carlos Condit on Saturday.
For Condit, it's just another fight... a very tough fight in which Condit will probably have to scratch and claw his way to victory. Nobody said the UFC was going to be easy, and Condit continues to strive to prove that he isn't just another WEC convert who will go sour. While he did lose his debut bout to Martin Kampmann via split decision, he did prove he belongs. Wins over Jake Ellenberger and Rory MacDonald solidified that stance.
Condit's most recent performance against MacDonald was a bit of a rude awakening for some fans however. While many felt Condit's experience would see him on the winning end rather easily, MacDonald provided a stiff challenge in his youthfulness, going so far as to putting some doubt as to whether Condit would pull out a victory if the fight went to decision. Condit eventually delivered in the third round, but it's evident that the former WEC champion has some work to do if he wants to rise to the top.
Condit will be hoping for a better performance against Hardy in London, England, although I'm not exactly sure he has the chops to turn this into a grappling match. Hardy's biggest asset is the style he brings to the table, most notably his accurate counter-punching and solid defense on the feet. Timing should be the key, and Condit will need to wade through those counter punches, latch onto his opponent, and take him down to win this fight.
That's a tough proposition, even when you think about the fact that Hardy doesn't come from a land of dominating Olympic wrestling champions who happen to train him daily. No, he comes from England, a country with no true amateur wrestling structure. But times are changing, and many of Britain's best up-and-coming talents are becoming wise to the notion that wrestling must be an integral part of their skill-sets.
Whether or not Hardy should be included in that group remains to be seen, but I expect Hardy to pull off a decision victory over Condit on Saturday night via a gameplan of surgical strikes from his hips once Condit commits. Condit will work hard to down Hardy, but I think Hardy is cagey enough to give Condit a real run for his money in the clinch game. Condit's versatility is his biggest strength, but Hardy is the better of the two standing while being good enough to ward off Condit's attempts to bring the fight into the other areas. I expect improvement from Hardy, but If the fight hits the floor for any lengthy amount of time -- Condit wins.