NOTTINGHAM, September 29 - Dan Hardy’s trademark Mohawk hairstyle bears more than a little resemblance to a shark’s fin. And it’s an apt comparison, because when Hardy smells blood he goes in for the kill. It wasn’t until late in his UFC on FUEL TV co-main event meeting with Amir Sadollah at the Capital FM Arena Saturday that he got the red stuff flowing freely, but once he did, he was relentless in looking for a finish.
He wasn’t quite able to get it, with Sadollah gritting it out, but one glance at his opponent’s face after the last round was enough to tell you which way the decision was going to go, and that was in Hardy’s favor by scores of 30-27 and 29-28 twice. The first round had gone Sadollah’s way largely thanks to a higher work rate and a lot of success with inside and outside leg kicks, but by the end of the third he was on his back eating elbows.
Hardy was fighting in his home city for the UFC’s first ever visit there and there was tremendous pressure on him not only to win but to perform well. And so he seemed restrained in the first half of the fight, taking a while to loosen up and start letting his shots go. But once he did he was able to edge ahead and gradually take control of the fight.
He also showed some new skills, hitting takedowns and working away from top position. Hardy is widely considered to be a kickboxing stylist and so the addition of new threats to his arsenal will give future opponents more to worry about. He did have a close call with a triangle attempt Sadollah was relentless in working for, which might be something for him to look at in between now and his next outing.
YVES JABOUIN VS BRAD PICKETT
UFC president Dana White says it over and over but it’s worth repeating - if you aren’t watching the lighter weight categories, you are missing out on some of the most explosive action that the UFC has to offer. This fight between Jabouin and Pickett pitted two of the organization’s most technical strikers against each other and it made for a thrilling battle.
Pickett likes to box and his hands are his favorite weapon. Crisp combinations, lots of body work and a killer left hook are the order of the day. Jabouin is more of a kickboxer, and he uses roundhouses and push kicks very well, combining superb timing with a precise sense of distance. The exchanges between the two were lightning-fast but power-packed - they might be bantamweights, but both of them have venom in their shots.
The textbook counter to a kick is to step in with a straight punch immediately and Pickett was scoring well with this. Both protagonists were racking points up but as Pickett was finding his range and rhythm he was beginning to edge ahead. He was doing particularly well with drawing fire from Jabouin and then countering heavily, and that was how the finish came around.
Backing Jabouin up, he moved into a range where the Canadian would let his hands go. As the attack came, Pickett countered with a huge uppercut that absolutely flattened the Montreal man. He dived in for a follow-up shot but the referee was in at the same time to stop the bout. The ecstatic Pickett jumped to his feet and started dancing.
Hear what "One Punch" had to say after his win
MATT WIMAN VS PAUL SASS
There was a lot of pressure on Matt Wiman coming into this fight with the undefeated submission specialist Paul Sass, who holds the world record for consecutive triangle victories in professional mixed martial arts. Obviously the ground is Sass’ home and so it was surprising that Wiman, with a defiant and almost cocky look on his face, opened the fight with a rather obvious kick.
Sass took hold of it and used it to hit a takedown, putting Wiman on his back. A roar from the crowd went up as they anticipated a win for the British lightweight. Instead they got a technical jiu-jitsu battle which brought to mind the recent fight between Alan Belcher and Rousimar Palhares. Like Sass, Palhares was the notorious submission fighter and he was the heavy favorite to score another win with his favored techniques.
Instead, it was Palhares who wound up being finished and so it was tonight. Sass found himself dealing with Wiman’s aggressive guard and was soon defending a triangle attempt. He worked his way out of that one and set to work pounding away at Wiman, only to find himself caught in an armbar effort. Ordinarily he would probably be able to escape this exact position but he didn’t have much room to maneuver, as he was trapped against the fence.
Wiman was duly able to lock out the arm and force the tap. The crowd’s shock was profound - Sass has never lost a round, much less been submitted. If you had put ten dollars on Wiman to win by submission you would probably now be collecting enough money to buy a decent-size boat, and with change left over. It was that unthinkable.
Proof of just how much pressure Wiman was under was amply provided in the fearful, feral scream he let rip at the ringside reporters, almost all of whom had predicted him to lose. And in his post-fight speech, when he cracked with the emotion of it all and had to fight through tears, the British crowd warmed to him and gave him a rousing cheer. Their applause was no consolation for Sass though; he looked devastated as he made the long walk backstage and contemplated the first mark in his L-column.
Watch Wiman's emotional post-fight interview
JOHN MAGUIRE VS JOHN HATHAWAY
Unusually for British fighters, both John Hathaway and John Maguire are considered to be grapplers primarily. Hathaway in particular enjoys a reputation as perhaps the UK’s foremost wrestling-based fighter, while Maguire has his patented Gypsy Jiu-Jitsu submission grappling, in which he has awarded himself a pink belt.
Humor was the last thing on Maguire’s mind in the first round though. He was unusually hesitant and was almost tentative as Hathaway constantly pressed forward with a much-improved standup game. It wasn’t wild by any means, but Hathaway’s striking was much more varied than we have seen previously and he seems to have used his long layoff to good effect, rounding out his skillset.
There were takedown efforts in the first round but none of them came off. Hathaway came close with a very nice ankle-pick but he charged into it with such force that as Maguire hit the floor he flicked Hathaway right over him. The two scrambled to their feet and Hathaway resumed his stalking with a big smile on his face.
It wasn’t until the second round that the fight hit the floor and Hathaway could employ his grinding top game. By taking ankle grips and pressing his hips in he was able to negate Maguire’s offensive guard while at the same time dropping shots of his own and looking to pass guard. Maguire proved a tricky customer, reclaiming guard constantly, but he was two rounds down going into the third and he knew it.
Maguire fans in the stands were screaming for their man to go for broke but the third round played out the same as the preceding two frames. Not until two minutes to go did Maguire start to move forward and put Hathaway on the back foot. He had some success but he also took some counters and overall it was too little too late. A takedown just over a minute left provided his best opportunity; Maguire needed a submission but Hathaway gritted it out then reclaimed half-guard. Maguire popped back up to his feet but even there Hathaway was managing to land on him with upkicks. Moments after the final bell sounded, the judges returned a 30-27 unanimous decision in favor of the London Shootfighters man Hathaway.
Watch a highlight of Hathaway's performance
DUANE LUDWIG VS CHE MILLS
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but Che Mills doesn’t believe that. At the relatively mature age (by professional fighter standards) of 30, Mills is still adding new things to his game. The judo trip he used to put Duane Ludwig on his back was something new from him and he managed to hit it more than once.
Ludwig has an excellent Muay Thai pedigree and so on his back was exactly where Mills wanted him. But the veteran was able to return to his feet and lock up into the kind of clinch his Thai Boxing background has well equipped him for. There was a tussle and suddenly he fell backwards with Mills on top of him. Ludwig cried out in pain and clutched the knee of his left leg, which had been tangled up in Mills’, possibly looking for a trip of his own.
Whatever it was - presumably ligament damage - the injury was a bad one and the referee was in to stop the fight right away. Ludwig couldn’t put any weight on the leg when he was helped to stand up and so he was stretchered from the Octagon. It isn’t likely to be a career-threatening injury but it will set him back for a good while. In the meantime, Mills gets his second UFC win and adds a big name to his resume.
Hear what Mills had to say about getting back in the win column
England Belongs to Hardy Again - UFC on FUEL TV 5 Main Card Report
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