Greg Hardy Beats Yorgan De Castro via Unanimous Decision at UFC 249

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistMay 10, 2020

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - MAY 09: (L-R) Greg Hardy punches Yorgan De Castro in their heavyweight fight during the UFC 249 event at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on May 09, 2020 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Jeff Bottari/Getty Images

Greg Hardy kicked off the UFC 249 main card with a unanimous-decision win over Yorgan De Castro in VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, on Saturday.

Hardy employed a fairly conservative game plan and overcame a slow start to earn the nod from all three judges.

Ariel Helwani @arielhelwani

Greg Hardy beats Yorgan De Castro via UD (30-27 x 3). I had it 29-28 for Hardy. After the fight, Hardy credits DC, who he heard on the commentary, for telling him to start checking those kicks. That turned the tide for Hardy.

De Castro established his aggression early. While Hardy was the bigger fighter any time he looked to close the distance De Castro fired off warning shots. Hardy wasn't to be baited into a slugfest, though. He patiently stuck throwing power shots from the outside creating an interesting dynamic between the two:

ESPN MMA @espnmma

Heavy hands being thrown by @DecastroYorgan and @GregHardyJr ๐Ÿ˜ฏ Stream #UFC249 on ESPN+ โ–ถ๏ธ https://t.co/xGtn2vMNl0 https://t.co/9W5gbSizNl

The former NFL star's inability to defend leg kicks was a storyline from the first five minutes as the two carried a good pace for heavyweights.ย 

UFC @ufc

Yikes. ๐Ÿ˜ฌ #UFC249 https://t.co/odJ5QRZ5zM

As is the case in most heavyweight fights, the pace would slow considerably in the second frame. De Castro's offense slowed to a crawl while Hardy still fought a defensive fight. The lack of offensive output was a puzzling development for De Castro.ย 

Sherdog by Mandatory @sherdogdotcom

De Castro hasten't thrown a punch or kick in nearly 2:30 in the second. Very odd #UFC249

The third round saw Hardy pick up his output a little bit as De Castro showed he wasn't willing to push the pace at all. He showed glimpses of striking with power and technique but didn't do much to put away his opponent. Overall, it was an interesting performance that offered more questions about Hardy than answers.ย 

Josh Gross @yay_yee

Judges: 30-27 for Greg Hardy. I had it 29-28 Hardy. De Castro did not do much after he appeared to injure his right foot in the 2nd round. This was a more mature Hardy. When he let his hands go he was dangerous.

The list of former NFL players who have fought in the UFC is short. The list of them who had the success of Hardy in the NFL is even shorter. He's the only one who has really been a consistent presence in the league before making the transition.

Hardy has been a busy fighter since making his UFC debut in January 2019. He fought five times in 2019 with mixed results. His learning curve has been steep. He lost his UFC debut against Allen Crowder because of disqualification via illegal knees and had a win against Ben Sosoli overturned because he was illegally using an inhaler between rounds.

His fifth fight of the year saw him lose to Alexander Volkov by decision.

Figuring out where the relative newcomer belongs in the heavyweight hierarchy has been tricky. His competition outside of Volkov has been questionable at best, but he held his own against the Russian.

The win over De Castro should be considered his best yet. De Castro came into the bout with a 6-0 record, including a knockout over Justin Tafa in his promotional debut. Hardy believes the win is just one little step in an ambitious plan to take over the division.

"The overall goal is to be a well-rounded fighter," he told E. Spencer Kyte of UFC.com. "It's to be the heavyweight Jon Jones. It's to be Cain Velasquez. It's to be those kinds of guys, and I need to make sure after each and every fight that it's continuing to come together."

He's obviously a long way from that. When healthy, Velasquez is one of the greatest heavyweights of all time, and Jones is arguably the best fighter of all time. Those are lofty goals that a win over De Castro doesn't budge the needle on.

However, in his evolution of becoming a viable heavyweight contender, this is a step in the right direction.