Greg Hardy thought he continued his winning ways as a mixed martial artist Friday when he defeated Ben Sosoli by unanimous decision at UFC on ESPN 6 from TD Garden in Boston.
All three judges scored the bout 29-28 in favor of Hardy, but the result was overturned to a no-contest due to his use of an inhaler between the second and third rounds.
When Hardy went to his corner after the second round, it was observed that he used an inhaler:
This marked the first time in Hardy's seven professional fights that he had to fight into the third round. Neither fighter was particularly aggressive in the match. They were often content to wait for the other one to move in before attempting anything.
For an athlete who didn't take up MMA full-time until 2016, Hardy (5-1, one no contest) has made a successful transition to the sport. His lone defeat was the result of an illegal knee delivered to Allen Crowder in a fight he was dominating.
Friday's bout was a different type of challenge for Hardy because he wasn't initially scheduled to fight Sosoli (7-2, two no contests) on this show. The former Carolina Panthers defensive end was supposed to take on Jarjis Danho at the Oct. 26 show in Singapore, but Danho withdrew from the bout last month.
Hardy's training and weight-cutting window was reduced by eight days, which may have played a role in his limited cardio and a possible reason he used the inhaler.
Sosoli also came into the fight on short notice, though he was likely still close to prime fighting shape after his last match Aug. 27 against Dustin Joynson as part of Dana White's Contender Series. That contest ended just over two minutes into the first round when Joynson was unable to continue due to an inadvertent eye poke.
White told reporters after that event he was hoping to get Sosoli another fight in an attempt to determine if he was worth offering a UFC contract.
"He's had some tough goes trying to get in the UFC," White said. "I am doing an episode of 'Looking for a Fight' in Hawaii this fall. I am going to bring this kid on 'Looking for a Fight' and give him another opportunity. Hopefully, the third time is the charm for this kid."
It didn't take long for White to find Sosoli's next fight, but the Australian struggled to bring the intensity until a late flurry in the third round.
Hardy has been a one-dimensional fighter to this point in his career, but it's worked out for him. The 31-year-old entered Friday's bout averaging 8.46 significant strikes per minute and a strike accuracy of 60 percent, per UFC.com.
If UFC wants to turn Hardy into a potential contender for the heavyweight championship, he will have to diversify his skill set going up against more difficult opponents.
Based on the overturned result, a rematch between Hardy and Sosoli wouldn't be a bad idea for UFC at some point in early 2020.