American Top Team’s Greg Hardy will step inside the cage for the second time in less than a month when he faces former Bellator MMA heavyweight champion Alexander Volkov in the UFC Fight Night 163 co-headliner on Saturday in Moscow. An elite athlete who competed at a high level in the NFL -- he once recorded seven sacks in a two-game period -- Hardy does not appear to have the technique necessary to compete at the highest level of mixed martial arts.
Hardy provides the material for this edition of The Film Room.
With only seven professional fights and under 30 minutes of fight time to his credit, we still have no idea what Hardy might become. He is only 31 years old, and although he lacks the technique, he is visibly improving and growing more comfortable with every appearance. Early in his career, he moved awkwardly and was simply not used to fighting. Everything looked sloppy and forced, but his power and athleticism were enough to get him by.
Just four fights later, Hardy’s footwork and movement looked much better. He was slowly plodding forward with feints and using the threat of his power to back Dmitry Smoliakov to the fence and then unload with punches. He is still not as polished as most of the division, but his quick improvements have been promising for his future.
Hardy is a freak athlete who does not necessarily need the best technique to become a contender. Look at Brock Lesnar. For now, his power and chin have been enough to take out favorably matched opponents, but Volkov represents a massive step up in competition. Going from fighting guys without Wikipedia pages to taking on arguably the most technical fighter in the division could be a disaster for Hardy. He has a decent understanding of the basics and a quick, powerful right hand, but no one knows how his skills will hold up against Volkov. The Russian is one of the longest and tallest fighters in the division, and he is a master at using his length to force opponents to fight at his range and pace.
Hardy has some clear defensive holes Volkov should be able to exploit. Hardy is still not comfortable fighting backward, and he drops his hands while crossing his feet when retreating. This has not caught up to him yet, but Volkov is the longest fighter Hardy has faced and will be able to hit him at a range to which he is not accustomed. Ben Sosoli picked up on another opening just three weeks ago. Hardy was looking for leg kicks all night but dropped his hands when doing so. He also threw them with no setup, making the kicks easy to see coming. Sosoli managed to land a couple of clean counter right hands as Hardy was kicking. If he was able to close the distance, Volkov certainly can do the same.