Four consecutive victories combined with a wild look and exciting style helped earn Dan Hardy an Ultimate Fighting Championship title shot in early 2010.
The England native and newly transplanted Las Vegan might as well have brought a pillow and blanket with him to the cage in his last three fights, including the ill-fated title bout against Georges St. Pierre.
Hardy spent the better part of five rounds against St. Pierre lying on his back and struggling to get up. He then was knocked cold by a Carlos Condit left hook before once again spending nearly an entire fight on his back in losing a lopsided decision to Anthony Johnson in March.
“Two of my last three fights have been snoozefests,” the 29-year-old Hardy said. “It’s been disappointing. I just don’t like having boring fights.”
Hardy is expecting to change all that tonight when he meets fellow welterweight Chris Lytle in the main event of the UFC on Versus 5 card in Milwaukee, the organization’s first trip to Wisconsin.
Lytle has had few dull moments over his 19-fight UFC career. He has won four “fight of the night” bonuses over his past seven contests.
“They didn’t make me and Dan the main event to go in there and put on a boring fight. So if you think I’m going to try to sit there and get him on the ground and hold him down for 15 minutes … that’s not going to happen,” Lytle said. “You’re going to get a good fight out of it. That’s all I can guarantee. It’s going to be fun to watch.”
Hardy has heard that before, most notably against Johnson, who vowed a standup war before going in the cage and exploiting Hardy’s takedown defense.
“I have come to realize that opponents can be quite unreliable, which is disappointing,” Hardy said. “But I don’t think that Chris is that guy.”
Either way, Hardy knows he must improve his wrestling and jiujitsu if he hopes to find long-term success in mixed martial arts. If he ever forgets, fans remind him of his shortcomings just about every day on Twitter.
“I think everyone thinks I just hit bags all day,” he said.
His quest to become more well-rounded landed Hardy in Las Vegas, where he trains with UFC heavyweight Roy Nelson and his Country Club team.
“There is a lot of talent in Vegas, and it gives me the opportunity to train with a lot of different guys and get a lot of different looks,” he said. “I just feel ready. I feel that this is a turning point in my career. I’ve got to get things back on track, and I’m in the right place to do it.”
He likely will need to beat Lytle, who turns 37 on Thursday, to avoid becoming another unemployed resident of Sin City. On the heels of three straight losses, Hardy knows one more probably would lead to his release from the UFC.
“There is definitely pressure, but I’ve just got to kind of go with the flow. I can’t force it too much,” he said. “If I think about it too much, then it’s going to get me down and it’s going to stop me from performing at my best. Right now, I feel like I’m unstoppable, and that’s exactly what I need to feel going into this fight. So the thought of the three losses is more of a motivational tool than anything else.”
The pressure on Jim Miller and Ben Henderson is different. The winner of the lightweight bout will be a leading candidate for the next title shot.
“Lose any of your fights and you’ve got to start over,” Henderson said. “Whether you’re (ranked) No. 19 out of 20 or No. 2 out of 20, you lose a fight, you’ve got to start over from scratch. So I view all my fights that way.”
The card, airing live on Versus (Cable 38) at 6 p.m., also features lightweight Donald Cerrone against Charles Oliveira.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at email@example.com or 702-224-5509.