UFC111 - Dan Hardy v Georges St. Pierre - Welterweight Championship fight
The main event of the evening sees welterweight champion and pound-for-pound star Georges St-Pierre take on Nottingham's Dan Hardy.
GSP is MMA's poster boy; his easy charm and good looks are backed by incredible grappling skills and athleticism unmatched in all of MMA. He holds dominating wins over most of the division's top tier fighters and his well rounded skills have seen him beat many at their own game.
For Hardy, it could be argued that the title shot has come a little early; whilst he has impressed and been victorious in his four UFC fights, he finds himself in arguably the most talented and deep
division in the UFC. His wins have come against upper-mid level fighters but in an effort to provide new challenges for the champion he has leapfrogged a number of fighters many view as more talented.
"Rush" is currently riding a six-fight win streak, the last 5 of those being title fights. His most recent successes read like a who's-who of the division, including in MMA's biggest ever fight - his dominating title defence against lightweight champion and all time great BJ Penn. It is his second stint as champion and therein lays the intrigue in the fight. Going into UFC 69, GSP had just won the title from established champion Matt Hughes. For his first defence, he was facing reality show winner and massive underdog Matt Serra. The gutsy New Yorker upset the odds and the world of MMA by taking the belt via TKO; a barrage of punches leading to a ref stoppage little more than 3 minutes into the fight.
"The Outlaw" finds himself in a similar situation; many give the English Thai-boxing specialist little more than a puncher's chance. In the pre-fight build up his message has been loud and clear; he intends to follow Serra's example and use his superior striking skills to take the belt. Some talk of MMA as a way of life; of hard fought discipline and respect. Hardy prefers, much more bluntly, to speak of malicious intent; of fighting rather than competing. He too comes into the fight in a rich vein of form; Hardy has lost just one of his last 13 fights. Whilst GSP is a level above the Nottingham native's past opponents, Hardy has both the punching power and belief to win the fight. And in a delicious twist of fate, Hardy has found himself training with Serra at the American's academy in the build up to the fight.
If St-Pierre is intelligent, he will utilise his wrestling and grappling skills to immediately take Hardy to the mat. He has a clear advantage there; for all Hardy's training with top coach Eddie Bravo, there is no denying the Canadian is a more skilled ground fighter. Hardy is a potent striker with powerful punches and kicks and the Canadian will do well to remember his upset loss to Serra. As time goes on however, should GSP struggle to end the fight as was the case against Fitch and Alves, then Hardy's belief will grow that he will find the opening he needs to stop the fight violently and definitively.
Will lightning strike twice? Will history repeat itself? Will MMA's golden boy lose again at the hands of a hard hitting underdog with nothing to lose? 10/3 is available if you feel the title is coming back to Nottingham. If you agree that Hardy has been given an undeserved title shot and that his bark is worse than his bite, 1/5 is on offer for the Canadian to complete another title defence.
With thanks to Harry for contributing to this article.