Former Pro Bowl defensive end Greg Hardy's UFC debut didn't go as planned. Allen Crowder played the role of spoiler and ended his undefeated streak with a second-round disqualification win over Hardy in the co-main event of UFC on ESPN+ 1 from Brooklyn, New York, on Saturday.
Hardy wasted no time in getting after Crowder. He attacked early with overhand rights looking for the early knockout, but Crowder was wise to tie up and officially make this the longest fight of Hardy's short MMA career.
Crowder quickly gave Hardy another first for his MMA career: first time being taken down. He gained top position with a takedown, and Hardy's grappling was less than technical.
Hardy's athleticism was on display as he powered himself to his feet and finished the first round for the first time in his career.
The second round is where things turned ugly for Hardy.
After getting the fight to the second frame, Crowder dropped his hands and goaded Hardy into a brief slugfest. That is, until Hardy unleashed a clearly illegal knee to a downed opponent in Crowder. The illegal strike left Hardy's opponent unable to continue and the referee with no choice but to end the fight via disqualification.
It's easy to see why the UFC put him in this spot, but where he'll go from here all of a sudden becomes very interesting.
Hardy's time as an All-Pro with the Carolina Panthers makes him a recognizable name not just to MMA fans, but fans of the NFL as well. It helps that he's been dominant in his small sample size in the cage thus far. He came into this bout with three sub-minute knockouts to his name, the kind of track record that can be marketed.
Marketing Hardy doesn't come without issues, though.
He was convicted on two counts of domestic violence in 2014 before the charges were later dismissed and expunged from his record, his NFL career coming to an end shortly after. So while the UFC might have been tempted to fast-track him to the spotlight before this performance on the big stage, his promotion already would have been controversial given his past.
Crowder was certainly not expected to win this fight. With a first-round knockout loss in his only UFC appearance, it was generally understood that Pretty Boy was more of a sacrificial lamb than an actual challenge for the well-known Hardy.
Now the UFC has an interesting decision to make with Hardy and Crowder going forward.