After tackling the now-cancelled Jon Fitch / Thiago Alves fight , and offering their insights on the UFC Interim Heavyweight title tilt as well, our intrepid trio of Featured Columnists turns its attention to the main event of the evening.
Joe Schafer: I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Hardy is being incredibly underestimated. He said it best about preparing for St. Pierre in Gary Herman's interview with him: "He’s got a very definite style now. You pretty much know what he’s going to do. I don’t think there will be any surprises. I can gear my training towards that.”
Hardy knows exactly what to train for with GSP. It's undoubtedly the Brit's toughest fight to date; it's going to be a hard-fought battle on the ground once St. Pierre gets a taste of Hardy's power, but a victory over St. Pierre is not impossible. The million dollar question is: Has Hardy done enough in preparation to offset the Canadian's superb wrestling?
If GSP's pride gets the better of him, forcing him to prove something standing up, his pride won't be the only thing that gets the best of him. The Brit possesses devastating power in his strikes and he's mentally untouchable. He's got a better chance than people think.
Robert Gardner: While it’s difficult to see Hardy pulling this fight out, he is a very live underdog. I don’t think he necessarily has the power in his hands that everyone seems to give him credit for, but none the less there is power there.
He has pretty sound technical boxing ability—even though he tends to brawl more than box. And he has been working with Eddie Bravo at 10th Planet and spending time with Matt Serra. So the pieces are there for something crazy to happen.
That said, GSP is in a class all his own in the welterweight division and his “riddum” is unquestionable.
Kyte: I think people have actually warmed to Hardy's chances since this fight was announced, but that's not to say he's now any better than a live underdog as Mr. Gardner put it.
I too think his power is overrated, but every other aspect of his game is drastically underrated. We've seen him out-box Marcus Davis and out-quick Mike Swick. While Eddie Bravo certainly has a stake in seeing one of his students do well, you don't work with one of the best jiu jitsu teachers in the land and come away with nothing.
One thing I have to disagree with is the contention that you know what to train for with GSP. Sure he's turned into a wrestler his last few fights, but anyone who thinks that all he will rely on is his dynamic takedowns need only watch the replay of the second Matt Hughes fight or try to follow the trajectory of Jon Fitch's mouthpiece at UFC 87.
Schafer: If there's one thing I have noticed about the Hughes, Fitch, and Alves fights is how GSP trains to take advantage of his opponent's weakness—Fitch and Hughes' striking and Alves' wrestling.
Considering that both Hughes and Fitch are nowhere near the striking caliber of Hardy, I'd say it's a foregone conclusion how GSP will be "tackling" the Brit.
Don't get me wrong, GSP can certainly hold his own on his feet, but proving it against a dangerous striker, who has all the room he needs to take as many risks as he wants, at one of the biggest cards we've seen in awhile, just doesn't seem that likely of a strategy for the Greg Jackson pupil.
Gardner: I’m with Spencer here. While GSP may be a phenomenal wrestler in the confines of MMA, he also happens to be one of the most well-rounded fighters to ever step into the cage. His base as a martial artist is in striking and he is more than capable to hold his own on the feet. Remember, GSP has success on the feet against BJ Penn, and Penn is arguably the best boxer in all of MMA.
Don’t be surprised to see GSP setup his takedowns with some clean and effective combinations.
Schafer: Even though GSP may be the more successful mixed martial artist of the two, don't be completely fooled by Hardy's brawling style—it's controlled. He's just as much of a martial artist as St. Pierre.
Every time he sets up a takedown with a couple of combos on his feet, Hardy will be waiting to counter, caution thrown to the wind. Plus, he's trained for being on his back, so he'll do everything he can to capitalize whenever GSP decides to strike.
Gardner: No one is saying that Hardy is any less of a martial artist than St. Pierre—I am very aware of his background. Hardy is a very talented guy, and if you sleep on him or overlook him, you will get caught. GSP is just better at what he does than Hardy is, plain and simple.
For GSP, I think his next opponent will likely be the winner of the Josh Koscheck-Paul Daley showdown. For Hardy, perhaps a bout with Paulo Thiago.
Kyte: While Joe's brave journey into the corner of the underdog ensures we don't have a GSP sweep, I'm backing my countryman, giving him the 2-1 edge in this installment of the roundtable; he's just got too many weapons and too much all-around talent to not be ready for anything Hardy has to offer.
This has been fun boys, let's do it again sometime!