UFC 89 Breakdown: The Undercard

Hardy vs. Gono

Oct 15, 2008
With the world’s most prominent mixed martial arts promotion set to cross the pond yet again, it’s time to take a closer look at all the undercard goodness slated for UFC 89 this Saturday at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham, England.

Dust off your Black Sabbath albums, lace up the Doc Martens and get extra cockney for this latest round of fight prognostications. Blame any inaccurate picks on instability in the space-time continuum.

Dan Hardy vs. Akihiro Gono

Hardy Scouting Report
Height/Weight: 6’0/170 lbs.
Age: 26
Hometown: Nottingham, England
Fighting out of: Nottingham, England/Los Angeles
MMA record: 19-6

The stakes: One of the UFC’s latest acquisitions from England, “The Outlaw” remains best known for his unexpected run in the Cage Force welterweight tournament, which ended in December with an unfortunate disqualification loss to Yoshiyuki Yoshida in the final.

Now in the UFC after a string of impressive wins on his home turf, Hardy has the unique opportunity to entrench himself in the Las Vegas-based promotion, as it continues to establish its presence in the UK.

The breakdown: For someone with only three years worth of actual cross training, Hardy has blossomed into a well-rounded fighter with a sweet red Mohawk to boot. Against Gono, his best bet is to use his reach and strikes to force the Pride Fighting Championships veteran to choose between getting picked apart from the outside or closing the distance.

Should Gono choose the latter, Hardy will need to either stay in the clinch or secure top position, where his underrated ground-and-pound can neutralize Gono’s submission game. Regardless, Hardy’s success hinges on using his strikes to shut down Gono’s offense. All bets are off if Gono’s army of penguins storms the cage; those things are vicious.

Gono Scouting Report
Height/Weight: 5’7/170 lbs.
Age: 34
Hometown: Tokyo
Fighting out of: Saitama, Japan
MMA record: 28-12-7

The stakes: Back in the UFC after close to a year-long injury-induced layoff, Gono wants to prove the pundits right by turning his transition to welterweight into success worthy of his notoriously over-the-top entrances.

Making the move to welterweight brings with it a whole new set of challenges, however, as the division is packed tighter than a sardine can. Beating Hardy on his home turf would certainly go a long way towards his excelling at 170 pounds. Otherwise, Gono risks becoming one of many forgotten men in the division.

The breakdown: A wonderfully unorthodox fighter, Gono revels in his quirks. Steering clear of Hardy’s simian reach will be vital for Gono if he hopes to show off his trademark zebra print shorts in the Octagon again.

With that in mind, Gono’s best bet is to crowd Hardy from the opening bell and get him on his back at all costs; that’s where the Brit’s lack of experience makes itself most obvious. Considering Gono’s arsenal of unconventional ground tactics, he could easily recreate his UFC 78 submission win against Tamdan McCrory.


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The bottom line: Hardy would be an easier pick if Gono wasn’t a solid clinch fighter. Unfortunately for Hardy, Gono has a way with Judo throws, and Hardy is far too prone to landing on his back. Should Gono gain top position, Hardy’s lacking jiu-jitsu skills will become apparent in the face of his opponent’s unorthodox but effective work on the mat.

Expect this to be one of the evening’s more hotly contested bouts, and the outcome will likely hinge on how well Gono’s cocksure defense holds up against Hardy’s considerable reach. Watch for Hardy’s lacking ground game to cost him a razor-thin decision.
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