Let’s talk about the curious case of Greg Hardy. I will be the first to admit that I had my doubts about Greg Hardy in the beginning. Previous to his first contender series fight there was, simply, a lack of cage time to really know/predict what his true potential was. He went 3-0 as an amateur in 4 months time and made his pro debut 4 months after his last amateur bout (Dana White’s Contender Series). Making your pro debut on a stage as grand as Contender series was pretty questionable to say the least. That show is usually for fighters who have built a resume and have put in the time on the regional scene and believe they are ready for the next step. It is rare that a fighter making his pro debut in MMA will get a stage like Contender series, but let’s not act like this is a normal fighter we are talking about. This is a former all pro football player with ELITE physical attributes and was once a big name in the football world. But I’m really not here to talk about his past, I’m here to talk about his progression and the present!
Greg Hardy had 3 minutes of cage time before making his UFC debut back in January of 2019. He was pegged as this vicious KO artist who just wanted to be unleashed inside the octagon. Well, he was pretty good at it. In Greg Hardy’s first 6 MMA fights, he had only been in the cage a total of 269 seconds. 5 of those 6 opponents Greg Hardy took out in under a minute. It was safe to assume Greg Hardy was building his reputation as a fighter who went in there and wanted to see if you could take the power in his hands. Many failed early on, but Allen Crowder was the exception (in a way). Allen Crowder is officially Hardy’s first MMA loss. Crowder was able to survive the 1st round and drag Hardy into deep waters where he had never been in his MMA career. We saw Hardy go to a second round for the very first time in his career. He looked out of wind and out of place to be completely honest. That being said, I didn’t see any signs of him wanting to quit. Crowder was in deep on a double leg 2 mins in and Hardy fought it off well and stayed upright. Shortly after that the sequence, controversy followed. Hardy landed an illegal knee and the fight was over. Hardy’s 1st loss of his career. In the moment I figured the trash talking of Crowder in that second round probably had something to do with it, or maybe the cardio of Hardy had something to do with it. Regardless, Hardy made a rookie mistake and paid for it. The thing for me here is, I believe Hardy learned a lesson that night. He was over extending with strikes and just reaching a lot of the time vs Crowder. He was forcing the KO as opposed to letting it come to him. Since that fight I believe we have seen Hardy grow and mature as a fighter. It is very evident to me that Hardy has re shaped his mentality and rounded out his game.
Just look at his last 2 fights against Sosoli and Volkov. Sosoli might have been a “lackluster” performance to some but I don’t see that as the case for me. Hardy showed the ability to fight smart and execute a game plan for 15 mins. He showed me the willingness to be patient and ability to pick his shots throughout the course of fight. That performance to me was the best of his career up to that point. A KO within 5 mins really means nothing to me at this point. We all know he has the ability to do that, but did we know he can go 15 mins and execute a game plan throughout.
Greg Hardy vs Alexander Volkov – This fight is another example of how much Greg Hardy has grown as a fighter. Despite the fact that he lost, he once again showed me he belonged and has in fact matured his game. He took the Volkov fight on short notice and was a sizeable underdog when the betting lines first opened. Volkov is no slouch and a top 5 HW in today’s landscape. At the time Volkov was ranked number 7. So this was a HUGE step up in competition for Hardy. I’ve looked back and watched the fight several times now and I still hold true that Hardy, in my eyes, was a lot more competitive throughout course of fight than I thought he would be. Going into that fight I thought Hardy’s only chance was a 1st round KO, but he managed to make it a fairly competitive fight throughout 15 mins. People will look at the scorecards or fightmetric and try to convince you that Volkov dominated, but imo that wasn’t the case at all. Hardy overperformed in what was a “30-27” loss on the scorecards.
Where exactly has Greg Hardy improved his game?
For me the biggest improvement is his ability to take a step back and not rush things. That may not sound like much but combine that with the fact that he has improved the technical aspect of his striking and it goes a long way. He is no longer just bull rushing his opponent. He is using lateral movement and firing off clean/effective striking. At first he was using he raw power, now he is tuning in to his athletic side and using finesse. Hardy has also shown me good timing/defense on the feet. His reaction time and defense has improved the more he has let the fight come to him. I sometimes ask myself was this skill set/ability there the whole time and we just didn’t see it because all he needed was those first 2 mins to take out opponent. Regardless I think working closely with Din Thomas and being at ATT is finally paying off. It’s quite obvious Hardy is putting a lot of time in the gym over in Florida and is taking is MMA career very serious. All that being said I really believe Hardy has finally tapped into his true potential and is getting better at a rapid rate. He is ready for the top 15 of the division.
Greg Hardy faces Yorgan De Castro on May 9th. Currently you can get -200 if you wanted to place a wager on him. Let me start by saying Yorgan is no scrub. He def. has a good set of tools as a heavyweight in the UFC, but I don’t expect him to cause any trouble for Hardy at UFC 249. Yorgan is fairly athletic for a HW himself. He has great low kicks and pretty good speed overall on the feet. I believe his base is kickboxing and he’s been kickboxing for quite some time. We have seen glimpses of what he can do so far. He put on a low kick clinic on the contender series fight and showed decent TDD. In his UFC debut he was able to get a BRUTAL KO win over Justin Tafa in his backyard. Tafa rushed in and was caught red handed. It’s no secret this fight will be largely contested on the feet. I fully expect Greg Hardy to out point Yorgan for a decision win. The one way I can see Yorgan winning is if he gets off consistently on his low kicks. But I’m not too worried about that because Hardy does a good job of moving laterally and does a good job defensively vs kicks.
To me, a lot is at stake for Greg Hardy in this match up. This will be one of the biggest stages the UFC has ever had. With the majority of sports on hold, the UFC will get a ton of attention from places and people they normally wouldn’t have. I hold Greg Hardy in high regards and don’t believe he should be losing this kind of match up. It will be a huge step back if he finds a way to drop the ball here on May 9th. As I’ve mentioned previously, I believe he is ready for top 15 type fights. He should have and was expected to lose the fight against Volkov. It’s a totally different ball game here.
I have been contemplating a bet on Hardy for some time now and I have been waiting for the money line to close and scoop up Hardy at around -170 or so. Instead money has come in on Hardy and the line is getting wider. That being said I fully expect the line to get even wider and we get closer to fight day. People who don’t normally bet on this sport will be looking for a piece of the pie this weekend, and the name “Greg Hardy” rings a bell as a general sports fan. So it might be now or never at a -200 price tag. I might just cut my bet size and place a small wager on Greg Hardy winning via decision (+260). That is my prediction after all.
Regardless of how you feel about Greg Hardy as a person I think it’s great to see how fast he is evolving in MMA as a fighter before our very eyes. I am excited to see him throw down on May 9th at UFC 249
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