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|Dan Hardy's striking ability earned the praise of UFC welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre.|
A healthy Georges St. Pierre will be cage-side at UFC 105 in Manchester, England, when Dan "The Outlaw" Hardy and Mike "Quick" Swick go at it in the co-main event.
"Apparently, I will probably fight the winner of this fight, so I'm going to be watching it very carefully," St. Pierre, the UFC welterweight champion, said cheerfully.
The Canadian has pretty much cleaned out the upper tier of the 170-pound division. The Swick-Hardy winner is touted as the best of the rest.
St. Pierre had figured on a challenger eliminator between Swick and Martin Kampmann. But Swick's concussion moved Paul Daley into the on-deck circle, and the English fighter upset Kampmann at UFC 103 on Sept. 19. That set the stage for Swick-Hardy.
Apparently I will probably fight the winner of this fight so I'm going to be watching it very carefully” -- Georges St. Pierre, on watching UFC 105's co-main event between Dan Hardy and Mike Swick
Swick (14-2, including 9-1 in the UFC) promises to be a reality check for England's Hardy (22-6 with one no contest, 3-0 in the UFC). A former middleweight from Texas, Swick is big, well-rounded and dangerous, showing lethal finishing in dispatching Ben Saunders at UFC 99.
And despite the hiccup with the concussion and the high stakes surrounding this fight, the 30-year-old Swick says he plans to let it all hang out.
"I'm not fighting just to get a win, no by no means," he said. "I'm going out there to make a statement, and I've trained ridiculously hard. I've never been this ready for a fight and I'm going to show it."
The 27-year-old Hardy is a savvy counterpuncher who has managed to position himself within one fight of a title shot after two split decisions (over Akihiro Gono and Marcus Davis) and a knockout (to Rory Markham).
"Definitely, [I'm] ahead of schedule, but that that's what winning fights does for you," he said. "You know everything's going according to plan, I'm beating the right guys and my [title] shot's presenting itself a little earlier than I thought it would. But I've not got a problem with that at all."
Hardy essentially talked his way into a fight with Davis last time out, chipping away at the emotional American and belittling him as a "fake Irishman." Davis worked himself into a lather, and when UFC 99 rolled around, he admits he wasn't thinking right.
"I focused too much on Dan Hardy and not so much on Marcus Davis in that fight," Davis said.
It's water under the bridge for Davis, although he admits to pulling for Swick because Davis hopes to get a rematch with Hardy. And Davis is willing to offer advice to Swick, who beat him at UFC 85, if it helps the cause.
"If I was Mike, I would concentrate on being real quick with my hands and taking Hardy down," Davis said. "Hardy, I mean his wrestling absolutely sucks. I'm not a wrestler by any means, as everybody knows. I'm just a boxer, and it was easy for me to take him down. And easy for me to stay on top. And Mike's a much better wrestler than I am."
Davis says Swick should take Hardy down, look to pass guard and then set up a choke. That game plan is not exactly news to Hardy.
"Obviously, I think if he decides to stand and trade punches with me, that's going to be a bad idea, although he does have fast hands," Hardy said of Swick. "I definitely think I'm the more technical fighter and I definitely think I've got more power in my punches. And I can mix it up a little better than him. & When he fought Davis, he was very keen to get the fight to the ground, and I won't be surprised if he tries the same thing with me."
There's been no trash-talking this time from Hardy. For one, he doesn't think he could push Swick's buttons the way he did Davis. And he likes Swick. The two met on a visit to military bases in Germany prior to UFC 99 and got along well.
"I just didn't think that this fight needed that [trash-talking]; the fight's going to sell itself at the end of the day," Hardy said. "We're two exciting strikers coming in, both real hungry for a step up in the division."
The gentlemanly St. Pierre is nothing but complimentary toward both fighters.
Speaking of Hardy: "He's a great fighter, he really deserves it. & He's got very lethal, very powerful hands. He can knock you out with one punch. It's always a big danger when you fight a guy like him."
Regarding Swick, St. Pierre said: "Mike Swick is very, very fast, has probably the fastest hands in MMA. A very accurate puncher, he's very well-rounded, so it's going to be a very interesting fight. They both have the tools to beat each other. I think the winner of this fight will be the guy who has the best strategy and who fights the smartest."
Neil Davidson is the general sports editor of The Canadian Press.