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|Dan Hardy wasn't the only Brit to break out Saturday, but his win carried the most weight.|
MANCHESTER, England -- Dan Hardy brushed past Mike Swick at UFC 105 on Saturday to move squarely into the path of champion Georges St. Pierre.
And he did it in style. The 27-year-old English welterweight didn't finish Swick, but he showed poise and skill in dispatching the veteran American via decision with relative ease.
"He handled Swick easily," UFC president Dana White said. "That is impressive. He did something I didn't expect him to do tonight: He whupped Mike Swick's ass."
Hardy made a statement in the clinch at the fence in the first round when he stopped Swick's attempts to get him to the ground.
"I think when he realized he couldn't take me down, he knew his options were limited," said Hardy, who punished Swick with his left hand repeatedly. "I think a lot of people underestimate my wrestling."
Still, Hardy said he was disappointed that he didn't end the fight with a knockout. He promised that will change as he spends more time with his new striking coach, Steve Papp.
"We're going to start finding our rhythm soon, and I'm going to start putting people to sleep," Hardy said. "I've got the potential. You see when I hit people, they hurt all the time."
Hardy will probably fight GSP in Las Vegas, said White, who offered no time frame.
"I don't mind," Hardy said. "With an opportunity like that, I'll fight him in Canada, in Vegas, in the U.K., on the moon, in the phone box on the corner, in the car park. As long as he brings his belt along with for me to take off him, I don't really mind. It's a great opportunity, and I'll fight him anywhere."
The brash Hardy, with four straight wins, has talked the talk and walked the walk so far in the UFC. Now a healthy St. Pierre, recovered from the abductor injury sustained in his comprehensive UFC 100 win over Thiago Alves in July, has something to think about.
UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture eked out a close decision against Brandon Vera in a main event that featured a lot of clinching and not much action.
The three judges scored it 29-28 for the 46-year-old Couture.
"Thanks judges," Vera said sarcastically in the cage.
Said Couture: "It was a close fight. I agree that it could have [gone] either way. I wouldn't have been terribly disappointed had the decision [gone] the other way."
White also said he didn't know at the end of the fight which way the decision would go.
"Couture's an aggressive guy who stays in your face," White said. "He roughs you up against the cage. He steals rounds. He's a professional, man. This guy's been around a long time, he knows how to fight. You want to beat Randy Couture, finish him."
Vera did hurt Couture in the second round with a body kick. "I was protecting my head and he kicked me square in the ribs and got my attention," Couture said. "I think he moved my heart with that shot."
A disappointed Vera, saying he is still only at about 70 percent of his full potential, says the loss could be the fight "that probably just awakens the beast."
Vera will now look for some payback from his wife, Kerry, who takes on Couture's ex-wife, Kim, in a Nov. 20 Strikeforce Challengers event.
British fighters had a night to remember in Manchester, going 7-3 at the MEN Arena. Middleweight Michael Bisping scored a much-needed victory by stopping Canadian Denis Kang at 4:42 of the second round.
"He looked very impressive tonight," White said. "Beating Denis Kang the way that he beat him is a big deal. A great night for the Brits."
Bisping had his back against the wall after being knocked out in devastating fashion by Dan Henderson at UFC 100. Kang floored him in the first round and took him down. But Bisping bounced back to beat up the Canadian in the second.
"I can't put into words the amount of pressure that's come off me right now," said Bisping, whose next task is his usual postfight trip to Toys 'R' Us with his two kids.
England's Ross "The Real Deal" Pearson lived up to his nickname in stopping veteran Aaron Riley. Pearson, winner of the lightweight division of "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 9, showed crisp striking and a bristling arsenal of kicks and knees.
There were also wins for English lightweights Terry Etim and Andre Winner, and welterweights John Hathaway and Nick Osipczak.
"No doubt about it," said White, as six English fighters sat on the dais. "This country and these athletes have come a long way in a short time
Said Vera: "Congratulations to all the U.K. fighters. You bastards looked good tonight, man."
Neil Davidson is general sports editor of The Canadian Press.