Chris Lytle and Dan Hardy are set to face of this Sunday at UFC on Versus 5: Hardy vs. Lytle in what is a make-or-break fight for both competitors.
Hardy is riding a three-fight losing streak and runs the risk of being cut from the promotion if he loses this fight. Considering that Dan fought for the welterweight championship just a little more than year ago, it is surprising to see him in such a dire position.
Lytle's position is a little better than Dan's right now, but this is still a very important fight for him. With three wins in his last four fights, he probably won't get cut if he loses. That said, Chris is 36 years old and if he wants to make a run for the welterweight strap, he has to do it now. He was close to getting a title shortly after beating Matt Serra back at UFC 119, but a loss to Brian Ebersole after that stopped his momentum.
A win over Hardy would definitely get Lytle back on the right track.
Both of these guys need the win, but only one can have it.
Who's going to walk away the victor?
Let's take a look...
From a technical standpoint, Chris is easily the more experienced fighter; he's had 20 more fights than Dan and has fought many more times in the UFC.
However, just having more fights doesn't necessarily give Lytle the advantage.
These two have both been in high pressure situations before and have both competed against some of the best fighters in the world.
Neither man can bring anything to the table that the other one has not dealt with before.
Experience shouldn't play much of a role here.
Neither fighter is known specifically for their cardio, but you never really see them look tired.
Both tend to show up in shape and ready to fight all three rounds, if need be. I can't recall an instance in which either fighter lost a fight because they ran out of gas.
This has the potential to be a pretty fast-paced fight, but both fighters should be able to handle that.
In terms of pure boxing skills, these guys pretty much cancel each other out.
They both have solid, technical boxing skills, good hand speed and they tend to let their technique slip a bit if they get into a brawl.
So, with boxing being a wash, we have to delve deeper.
Dan should be the more complete striker, considering that he is a black belt in Taekwondo and also has some good Muay Thai skills. As a result, he should be much more capable than Chris when it comes to incorporating kicks and mixing up his attacks in general.
Hardy will also have the advantage in terms of power. 11 of Dan's 33 career victories have come by way of knockout or TKO; he can definitely end a fight with one clean shot.
Lytle, surprisingly, has just three knockout wins in his 12-year career.
I expect the striking to be pretty close, but I'm giving the advantage to Dan.
Edge: Dan Hardy
If Chris Lytle is known for one thing, it's being able to take a punch. He has been TKO'd just twice in his career, once due to a cut and once was a doctor stoppage.
If you're doubting Lytle's chin, check out his fight with Joe Riggs. He takes a ton of punishment in that fight.
Hardy has also shown a good chin throughout his career, going the distance with some dangerous strikers, but his chin is definitely not as good as Chris'. We learned that when Carlos Condit knocked Dan out in the first round of their fight.
Edge: Chris Lytle
I'm not expecting this fight to go to the ground, or at least not until late in the fight, but if it does, Lytle will be the one to take it there.
Chris isn't known much for his wrestling, but he did wrestle in high school, and throughout his career he's proved to be quite competent at getting his opponents to the mat if they aren't strong wrestlers.
To say the least, Hardy is not a strong wrestler. Since joining the UFC, he has faced two really good wrestlers and both were able to take him down easily.
Lytle's grappling isn't on the level of Anthony Johnson or Georges St-Pierre, but it is solid and I think if he decides he wants to, he can get this fight to the ground.
Edge: Chris Lytle
Chris Lytle has extremely underrated jiu-jitsu. Nobody ever talks about him as if he's a submission specialist, and yet he's a second degree black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. 21 of his 30 career victories have come by submission.
Hardy has just four submission victories to his name and only one of them has come as a result of a legitimate submission hold.
Dan did show a pretty crafty guard against Anthony Johnson, neutralizing most of Johnson's offense, and almost hitting a kimura on a few different occasions. However, that's not nearly enough to give him the advantage here.
Edge: Chris Lytle
The most important factor in this fight is whether or not it's going to hit the ground.
I'm guessing that it won't go to the ground, and if it does, it won't be until late in the fight.
Both of these guys really love to stand and bang, and that's what I expect will happen for the majority of this fight.
Dan Hardy has a pretty significant reach advantage of six inches working in his favor. I believe that, combined with his more well-rounded striking game, will give him the edge on the feet.
Lytle will definitely be a game opponent, but Hardy will out-strike him for the first two rounds, winning those rounds, but not by a wide margin.
In the third round, Chris will realize that he might be losing the fight on the judges scorecards and he will look to take the fight to the ground. We'll see a lot of clinching in that round and a couple takedowns. Lytle might grab a couple dominant positions, but he won't submit Dan.
Another big factor in this one is who will be the more determined fighter and that will probably be Hardy, who could be fighting for his job.
It's going to be a close fight, but...
Winner: Dan Hardy via Split Decision