Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Mixed Martial Arts [Print without images]

Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Condit thinks he has Hardy's number

By Franklin McNeil
For ESPN.com

It's one thing to pick a fight with Dan Hardy; it's another to challenge him on his home turf.

Most welterweights want no part of Hardy in the United Kingdom, where he has yet to lose in UFC competition. But the man he will face Saturday in London at UFC 120 (9 p.m. ET on Spike TV), campaigned to meet him in his backyard.

Carlos Condit didn't simply ask to face Hardy -- he called him out. Hardy (23-7-0, 1 NC) is the type of high-profile opponent Condit has been hoping to face since his UFC debut in April 2009, and he didn't want this opportunity to pass him by.

Being the last WEC 170-pound champion is a distinction Condit cherishes, but that was never his career goal. Condit wants to become UFC welterweight champion, and defeating Hardy will be a major step toward achieving that goal.

"For one, Dan Hardy is coming off being the No. 1 contender," Condit told ESPN.com. "He's got status in the organization. A win over him will catapult me in the rankings.

"The fight is a great match, stylistically. It makes for a very exciting fight, and those are the kind of fights I want to be in.

"And it's in his hometown, it's in the O2 Arena. It's the biggest fight of my career on a lot of different levels."

Now comes the hard part: beating Hardy, whose four UFC bouts all were staged in Europe.

Condit (25-5-0) will enter the cage as an underdog. There are very few people giving him much of a chance to leave London victorious.

But Condit doesn't share the majority opinion. He asked for this fight believing he possesses the necessary physical skills to upset Hardy. As far as Condit is concerned, Hardy has never faced a more well-rounded fighter.

"A lot of guys are well-rounded, but I'm very good at my stand-up. I'm very good on the ground," Condit said. "Some of his [opponents] have been good stand-up guys and OK ground guys, or OK ground guys or whatever.

"I'm very good in all situations. That's the difference."

While Condit plans to give Hardy a different kind of Octagon experience, the local favorite has been ironing out a few wrinkles in his game.

After a lopsided loss in March to UFC welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre, the biggest knock on Hardy was his lack of takedown defense. The schooling St. Pierre gave him convinced Hardy to focus seriously on developing his overall ground skills.

Hardy enjoys fighting every four or five months, but he will have been away from the cage for nearly seven months when he meets Condit. Normally, Hardy would frown at such a long disruption in his fight schedule, but he is thrilled to have had the extended break to prepare for this bout.

He used the additional time to fine-tune his wrestling, takedown defense and submission techniques. As a result, Hardy is confident that he, not Condit, will be the more well-rounded fighter Saturday.

"There were a lot of things highlighted in my last fight that needed work," Hardy told ESPN.com recently. "It's been nice to have extra months to devote to my wrestling and my ground game. I've been working on my striking as well, so there's improvement there.

"It's been nice to have some time away and slow my training down to a learning pace and expand my game."

Hardy is so confident in his ground skills that he won't rule out submitting Condit. Putting Condit's lights out would only sweeten the victory.

"Don't be surprised if I take him down and put him to sleep," Hardy said.

There is little reason to doubt that Hardy will be an improved fighter Saturday, but Condit isn't concerned. He knows it takes more than a couple of months to become proficient on the ground.

Striking remains Hardy's bread and butter, and Condit expects that much of the action will take place standing. If Hardy opts to take the fight to the ground, Condit believes the advantage swings heavily in his favor.

Although Condit is comfortable striking with Hardy, he will be ecstatic if the bout turns into a submission contest. Hardy survived an arm-bar attempt by St. Pierre during their March title fight, but Condit promises that won't be the case against him.

"GSP focuses more on his wrestling as part of his game than his jiu-jitsu," Condit said. "I'm more technical. I know how to finish these submissions.

"If I put him in that same arm lock, he's either going to tap out or his shoulder's going to come out."

Franklin McNeil is a contributing mixed martial arts/boxing writer for ESPN.com. He also appears regularly on "MMA Live," which now airs on ESPN2. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Franklin_McNeil.