Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Reel Deal on Dan Hardy

Today we're looking at Dan Hardy, who is in the final preparations for his title fight against the UFC welterweight king, Georges St. Pierre. It's a tall order to fill, since GSP is widely touted as being the most complete mixed martial artist of all time. One of the pound-for-pound best, St. Pierre is a frightening combination of precision striking, world-class wrestling, and black belt level jiu-jitsu. He's faced down wrestling champions like Matt Hughes and Josh Koscheck, BJJ black belts like Matt Serra and BJ Penn, and striking machines like Jon Fitch and Thiago Alves. It's hard to imagine anyone at 170 beating him at this stage in his career.

Joe Rogan and Dana White have been hyping the fight by talking about Dan Hardy's top-level striking abilities, where he's supposed to have an advantage over GSP. GSP's last loss was a TKO to Matt Serra back in 2007, so it makes sense that Hardy would at least have the proverbial puncher's chance. Still, if we take a look at the record, the chance of KO really isn't as high as people would want us to believe.

Firstly, St. Pierre has only ever been knocked out once, which was the aforementioned loss to Serra. Since then, he has all but cleaned out the 170 pound division, with his last defense against power striker, Thiago Alves. Alves is much bigger and stronger than Dan Hardy, but was simply unable to stop GSP's takedowns. Now, Hardy is definitely a good balance of technique and power, even working with esteemed boxing coach Freddie Roach for his last couple of fights. still, it's not like Alves is just a big guy with nothing but power, so let's not discount his technical abilities. For a fighter with 60 percent of his wins by knockout, Alves was only able to land three significant strikes on the feet during the five rounds he spent with St. Pierre, and none of them put the champ in any trouble.

Since we're talking about a knock out shot here, let's take a look at Hardy's own record. Prior to his debut in the UFC, he had 10 combined knockouts and TKOs, along with 2 submissions to strikes, over the course of 26 fights. Since debuting in the UFC, although he has won all four of his matches, he only has one KO to his name. His fights have been against steadily tougher and tougher competition, further reinforcing the much higher level of talent that Dana White keeps in his stable. Hardy has managed to knockdown his opponents with strong counter-strikes, such as in his fights with Marcus Davis and Mike Swick, but I have to wonder whether or not he has the finishing power to score the KO against GSP.

It's just hard to imagine Hardy having the tools to knock out St. Pierre with those kinds of odds, especially when you compare him to real power strikers at 170 like Alves or Paul Daley, who have made their careers on maintaining high KO numbers. Not to say that Hardy doesn't have the power to do the deed, I just wouldn't bet the house on it.

I should say that it's not like he has absolutely no chance against the champion. The first GSP/Serra fight proved that a fighter can really win on any given sunday, even if the odds are stacked against them. Dan might put his tenth planet system to work after a takedown and pull off one of Eddie Bravo's crazy submissions, or he might even get that one good shot that puts an the champ to sleep.

The point is that it would be foolish to assume that he has the knock out power to give him any significant advantage in this fight. Maybe against lesser fighters this advantage might be more pronounced, but against an elite fighter like georges st pierre, he doesn't have that luxury. Hardy needs to level up his game in all areas of the cage, and not rely on the off-chance that he might get in one or two lucky shots.

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