Dan Hardy has been absent from UFC TV screens since August when he lost to Chris Lytle via submission.
Following the loss, many MMA fans were calling for the release of Hardy as it was his fourth straight loss in the promotion. But that didn't happen and now Hardy is looking to get his career back on track in 2012.
"I'd like a May or June return in Vegas. I want the time to invest with my coaches. And fighting in Vegas means I can do my camp at home where all my coaches are, that would allow me to focus fully on the fight." (ESPN.co.uk)
One of the ways Hardy can get back into the good graces of MMA fans besides winning his next fight is by beating someone of note. "The Outlaw" knows this and even has a particular person in mind for his next fight.
The legendary Matt Hughes may not be the fighter he once was, but his name still resonates with fans and would provide a win over a credible opponent if Hardy could defeat him.
Hardy has expressed disinterest in Hughes before but took a jab at the Hall of Famer by coming out against Hughes' hunting of bobcats.
A major obstacle in the career of Hardy thus far has been his ineffectiveness in the grappling department. All of his recent losses sans the Carlos Condit bout have resulted from Hardy being beaten on the ground.
To his credit, Hardy has realized his shortcomings and moved his training camps to Las Vegas. Although I would've liked to have seen him move into a gym like Xtreme Couture, training with Roy Nelson will no doubt improve his ground game considerably.
Hardy should also turn his focus from landing a one-punch/kick KO into streaming together combinations.
Looking at his UFC record, you'll notice only one of his wins has come by KO: a win against Rory Markham in 2009.
"The Outlaw" has the technique down, but doesn't have the raw power to induce a KO when he lands with his strikes. Forgetting the tendency to try and take his opponents head off and instead try to "beat them up" would go a long way in helping Hardy's career.
Like a draft pick in any of the major sports, Hardy has the potential to be great in MMA. He has a fan-friendly fighting style and personality, he's shown the awareness to work on his faults and his promotion ability is top-notch.
It will be interesting to see how much of a changed fighter Hardy is when he returns to the UFC. If he comes back in the summer like he wants to, it will have been almost a full year away from the Octagon.
Although most people would agree that cage rust is a detriment to any fighter, in Hardy's case, it may have been just what he needed.