By Thomas Gerbasi
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND, November 14 – ‘The Outlaw’ was the hero Saturday night at the MEN Arena, as Nottingham’s Dan Hardy silenced some critics and also established himself as a legitimate challenger for the welterweight crown with a three round unanimous decision win over Mike Swick in the UFC 105 co-main event.
Scores were 30-27 twice, and 29-28 for Hardy, who improves to 23-6 with 1 NC as he earned a shot at UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre after four consecutive Octagon wins.
“It was a tough fight,” said Hardy. “Can’t take anything away from Mike, he always comes in and puts on a great fight.”
Swick (14-3) stalked Hardy at the bell, landing with a quick right before bulling his foe into the fence. The two traded positions along the fence, both looking to take the upper hand as they threw blows at close range. With two minutes gone, the bout was halted briefly after Hardy was hit with a low knee, but once the action resumed, the fighters took their places along the fence a second time. Again, it was a war of attrition as the two battled it out, and each fighter had his moments before the round drew to a close.
Early in the second, Hardy rocked Swick with a left hook to the head, and Swick staggered into the fence with Hardy right behind him. There. The two tied up and Swick was able to clear his head and begin firing back. Hardy wasn’t idle though, as he landed with close range elbows and foot stomps. With two minutes left, referee Kevin Mulhall re-started the stalled action and Swick was able to score with a flush left hook. Hardy took the punch well and kept moving forward, but he was starting to get countered more by the quicker Swick.
With the fight still close, Swick and Hardy began exchanging almost immediately at the start of the third, with Swick taking an early lead but Hardy roaring right back with another shot that rocked his foe. Hardy then followed up with a takedown and began firing off elbows as the crowd erupted and chanted his name. Swick stayed busy from the bottom, looking for the submission, but then Mulhall suddenly stood the two up and re-started the bout. As the bout entered its final 90 seconds, Hardy looked to be the fresher of the two fighters, and he even held his hand to his ear for more cheers, which the MEN fans gladly gave him. ‘The Outlaw’ didn’t forget to fight though, as he trudged forward, but Swick certainly didn’t back down either, and the crowd roared in appreciation at both fighters’ effort at the final bell.
To say Michael Bisping’s back was against the wall after his July loss to Dan Henderson would be a huge understatement. But Bisping responded to the pressure in spectacular fashion in his hometown, as he stopped world-class contender Denis Kang in the second round to get back in the win column and re-establish himself in the 185-pound pecking order.
“You have no idea I felt after the last fight,” said Bisping, now 19-2. “I’m going back to the old Michael Bisping.”
Kang (32-12-1, 2 NC) made good on his promise to test Bisping’s chin early, as he dropped ‘The Count’ with the first right hand he landed a little over a minute into the first round. Bisping shook off the effects of the blow quickly, and was able to keep Kang from capitalizing on the mat. Kang kept working though, eventually getting into the mount position. Bisping fought loose., but Kang stayed in control from the top, easily dodging Bisping’s submission attempts from the bottom as he scored with ground strikes until the bell.
Bisping tried to get his game in gear in round two, but Kang kept him honest with the right hand. With a little over three minutes left, Bisping finally found his opening and he scored a takedown on Kang and began to rain down punches from the top. Kang, after eating a few hard shots, battled back to his feet, but Bisping put him right back down again and bloodied his face with his unyielding assault. Again, Kang got up, but he looked to be on wobbly legs and one good shot away from defeat. With under a minute to go, Bisping scored another takedown and began firing away. Kang gamely got up again, but this time Bisping made sure he finished the job with another barrage that brought in referee Dan Miragliotta to halt the bout at 4:24 of the frame.
Welterweight up and comer Matt Brown scored his third straight Octagon victory, pounding out a third round TKO over game Leicester native James Wilks, who was competing for the first time since winning the welterweight division of season nine of The Ultimate Fighter.
The two locked up almost immediately, with Brown (13-7) seemingly hurting Wilks (7-3) with a quick elbow at short range. Wilks shook it off immediately though as he looked for a takedown. After a brief dip in the action, Brown scored well with a flurry upstairs, with Wilks locking the Ohio native up in search of a takedown again. Referee Leon Roberts re-started the bout after another stall against the fence, revealing a rapidly swelling bruise under Wilks’ left eye. Again the two locked up, and after a while, Wilks finally got the takedown. Brown rose almost immediately though, with the bell following soon after.
A wildly missed kick by Wilks gave Brown the opening he was looking for early in round two, as he followed up with a flying knee that dropped Wilks. Wilks cleared his head quickly and tried for a submission, but Brown escaped and the two rose, locking up against the fence. With 1:45 left, Roberts re-started the stalled action, and Brown took the opportunity to rock Wilks with hard shots to the head. Wilks shot in for a half-hearted takedown to try to turn the tables, and he managed to do so as he worked his way into side control, but it was Brown who almost finished the bout when he sunk in a triangle choke as the bell rang.
Wilks looked like he was going to turn the fight around in the final frame as he locked in a tight kimura on Brown, but Brown hung tough and amazingly found a way to escape. Once he did, he found his way into the mount position, and once he started firing off blows, Wilks turned to escape but Brown wouldn’t let him, continuing to pound away until Roberts halted the bout at the 2:27 mark.
Sunderland’s Ross Pearson made a huge statement in his first bout since winning the lightweight division of The Ultimate Fighter’s ninth season, dominating veteran Aaron Riley before finishing him off via a cut in the second round.
Pearson set the tone of the fight in round one, landing with strikes in the middle of the Octagon as well as at close range against the fence. Riley looked to be a step behind the younger, quicker, and more accurate Pearson throughout the round, and his face began to show the wear of the battle as the bell sounded.
‘The Real Deal’ refused to let his foot off the gas pedal in round two, and the crowd just spurred him on even further. Riley started to get his range a little more as the round moved on, but Pearson wouldn’t let him get off too many shots before he answered back with his own punches or kicks, keeping him consistently in the lead. With 30 seconds left, Pearson landed with a jumping left knee to the head, instantly cutting Riley. Referee Marc Goddard called a stop to the action for the Octagonside physician to inspect the cut, and the doctor had seen enough, advising a stop to the bout at the 4:38 mark of the second.
With the win, Pearson improves to 12-3; Riley falls to 28-12-1. Watch The Replay