Anthony Johnson defeated Dan Hardy dominantly last night, but the fight was far from the stand up war both men promised.
“Rumble” knocked Hardy down with a head kick in the early goings of the bout, but opted to fight Hardy on the mat for the majority of the rest of the night despite his success. Johnson was able to put Hardy on his back often and easily, exploiting “The Outlaw’s” biggest known weakness en route to earning a unanimous decision victory. Speaking with media last night during the post-fight press conference for UFC Fight Night: Nogueira vs. Davis, Johnson revealed why he chose a more conservative approach than he advertised (props to MMAJunkie.com).
“Deep down inside, I wanted to finish the fight,” Johnson said. “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.”
In the same way and for the same reason that Georges St. Pierre stacked the odds in his favor against Hardy by continually putting the Brit on his back, Johnson kept Hardy horizontal: because that’s where he’s proven to be the least effective.
“I knew I could bang with him; that was no problem,” Johnson said. “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.”
Johnson may have only been focused on winning, but he did take the opportunity late in the fight to try and submit Hardy, both with an arm triangle and a neck crank, though Hardy proved once again to be unwilling to tap. Johnson spoke about the near-submissions at the presser.
“I was just going for what I saw that was open. I saw a couple of punches that were open and stuff like that, but I knew what his weakness was, and that was the ground,” Johnson said. “…I had him in the one submission –- the head-and-arm -– and he almost tapped. I think he almost tapped, but it’s hard to tap Dan Hardy. The guy is a beast. I have so much love and respect for him. I thought I was going to be the first guy to tap him in the UFC, but that didn’t happen.”
He may not have tapped him, but Johnson did hand Hardy his third loss in a row which is usually the death knell of a fighter’s UFC career. There is no word yet on whether or not Hardy will be cut, though UFC president Dana White has already expressed hesitance to do so on account of the high regard in which he holds Hardy.