The Strange Concerns Of Dan Hardy
There is a type of fighter I unconditionally like. Regardless of their style, those who step in the case with the firm intention to kick some ass at all cost usually establish a psychological edge on their opponents that let them get away with shortcomings. That’s why I love watching the likes of Anthony Pettis and the Diaz brothers in action. They are not the most athletic, not the best wrestlers, but they will make you fight for your life. Shane Roller learned this the hard way against Pettis at WEC 50.
The wild brit Dan Hardy is somehow a member of this select club. I enjoyed watching him solve the riddle that Marcus Davis once was with patience, maturity and absolute lack of fear. That’s why I envisioned him being a good test for GSP despite not being as well rounded as Fitch, Alves or Koscheck. Something non-verbal about “The Outlaw” gets to you and makes you doubt. Unfortunately, last month he opened his mouth and stuck his own foot far deep into it.
Hardy said there’s too much wrestling in MMA to a Nottingham, UK web site. And I quote:
Rather than saying ‘oh, these guys can’t wrestle’, I think the problem is there’s beginning to be too much wrestling in UFC Octagon, not too little of it in the gym. There are a lot of people out there calling themselves ‘UFC fighters’ who are nothing of the kind. In the UFC, you should go for finishes. You should work for 15 minutes to knock your opponent out, submit him, or improve your position to give yourself the best chance of doing either.
He was referring to his teammate Andre Winner’s loss to Minnesota grinder Nik Lentz. I know those comments were most likely linked to his frustration to see his friend lose in such fashion (the fight wasn’t very interesting indeed), but let’s milk it a few seconds. Wrestling is the backbone of MMA. Mixed Martial Arts would not be a sport without wrestling. The likes of Randy Couture and Mark Coleman changed the sport the way electricity changed society. There is no turning back.
Lets say two fighters square off and go balls out, in accordance with Dan’s wish. One of them gets tagged and flops to his back instead of going for a takedown. Ideal situation for a finish maybe, but what’s keeping the guy on the bottom to hold you down, Royce-Gracie style? Then we’re back in one of those non-action position that Dan doesn’t like so much. But there’s no wrestling involved, only survival instinct. Neutralizing the action has little to do with wrestling. Do you remember the first UFC and IFC fights? What was more boring than two guy hugging each other on the ground with no idea what they had to do. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighters prospered by showing a patient game and tiring out their opponents. Wrestling made the game gradually more exciting because it was the logical answer to Jiu-Jitsu and strikers started using it in order to keep their distances from the grapplers.
If you get tagged while trading punches in an MMA fight, a takedown attempt is the only logical solution if you want to win. It’s going to give you time to recuperate and it will put you in an advantageous position. That’s what the nature of the sport is. It’s not boxing and in a way, it’s what makes it safer. Wrestlers can make things boring sometimes. They are often stronger than the other fighters and some of them are not so well rounded. They then stick to what they know and use their strength to neutralize the skills of their opponents. That makes for boring decisions and boring late stoppages. My personal pet peeve wrestler being Sean Sherk.
But in the end, that’s why MMA is so damn enthralling. When a fighter is getting outskilled in one aspect, he can always turn the tides by landing a takedown or by getting back up. If Dan Hardy does not think it is manly or whatever, he can always revert to professional kick-boxing or put a Gi on and move to Brazil. If he is dissatisfied with the current usage of wrestling in the sport, he is to blame because he did not adapt this crucial aspect of his game. Andre Winner lost his fight to Nik Lentz because he did not take the center of the cage and let Nik Lentz execute his game plan without interruption. He only has himself to blame.
Jose Aldo was fighting a superior wrestler in Manny Gamburyan on September 30th. Whenever he backed against the cage, he ran right back to the middle. He kept the Armenian at bay with punches every time he closed in and ended up on top. Aldo fought wrestlers too, beat them and did not complain a word. He has finished all of his fight but one in the WEC. Hardy has went to the decision every time but once in the UFC. Interesting mathematics for a guy who preaches about finishes. I guess that’s the difference between a champion and a challenger.