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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
Saturday's co-main event between Anthony "Rumble" Johnson and Dan Hardy promised to be a barn burner. Both fighters talked heading into the event about how ready they were to stand toe to toe and look for the knockout in a back and forth brawl. But once Johnson got Hardy to the canvas in the first round, he realized where his major advantage in the fight one, and he unapologetically utilized that to bring Hardy to the ground continuously in the fight, earning a well-deserved and much needed win over the Brit.
The fight started out as most expected, with both fighters swinging heavy punches at one another, and Johnson even dropped Hardy with a grazing head kick. But once on the ground, it was clear that the much bigger Johnson was going to be able to bully Hardy around.
The Brit simply got more and more frustrated as the fight went, being continuously put on his back and taking sporadic punishment from Johnson. The crowd grew restless as the fight played out in the opposite manner of which they were promised, but it was simply a very smart gameplan for Johnson throughout the fight, and he said afterward that ultimately, the win was more important.
"Deep down inside, I wanted to finish the fight," Johnson said after the fight (transcribed by MMAJunkie.com). "But in reality, I just needed to win. I've been out for a year and some change. I needed to get back in the groove of things and just get the win. I didn't really need to go for a knockout or a submission."
"I knew I could bang with him; that was no problem. I knew I could do that. But I knew his weakness was his wrestling, and I know that's one of my strengths, so I took it to my advantage and used it."
As for Hardy, the one-time title challenger has now lost three straight fights, a distinction that puts any fighter at risk of being cut from the UFC's roster. However, UFC President Dana White said after the fight that he wouldn't definitely be cut.
"[He won't] necessarily [be cut]," White said. "We'll have to wait and see. I f***ing love that kid."
Johnson now looks to make a move towards the top of the division after the impressive performance, while Hardy goes back to the drawing board. The Brit will need to improve his wrestling game, as it's a rough achilles hell to have in a division dominated by wrestlers.
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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