UFC fans who have been waiting for Greg Hardy to take a step up in competition got their wish on Saturday as the controversial former NFL defensive end faced off with a top 10 opponent for the first time and came up well short of victory. Hardy dropped a wide decision to Alexander Volkov at UFC Fight Night 163 from CSKA Arena in Moscow.
Hardy (5-2) was at a significant deficit in just about every area of the fight against Volkov (31-7). The Russian has been in with more accomplished talent, is taller, has more technique and has five times the experience of Hardy. Still, heavyweight MMA is a dangerous game and Hardy possesses a notably powerful right hand.
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Unfortunately for Hardy, that right hand weapon was taken away early when it appeared he suffered a hand or arm injury while blocking a high kick from Volkov. With his best tool removed from the fight, Hardy served as little more than a sparring partner for Volkov, who never really shifted to a higher gear while peppering Hardy with long jabs, straight right hands and kicks to the legs, body and head.
To Hardy’s credit, he was not finished by Volkov and can claim some degree of moral victory. But he also looked like the unpolished, one-dimensional fighter most observers thought in not being able to make any adjustments as Volkov circled and picked moments to step in and pop off strikes.
Volkov returned from a 13-month layoff after losing by knockout to Derrick Lewis in the final seconds of a fight in which he was ahead on the scorecards. He took the decision by scores of 30-27 across the board.
“I had a full year with a bad side of my career, but I’m back and I fought for every one of you,” Volkov told the hometown crowd following his win. “Thank you to my wife, thank you for my team. I dedicate this fight to my mother.”