The UFC looks to follow its action packed UFC 133 card with a second dose of high octane MMA action just seven days later as TUF 7 alum Amir Sadollah (5-2) and “Bang” Duane Ludwig (20-11) open the festivities for UFC on Versus 5 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Following the pair will be another pair of bouts that feature some of the UFC’s most exciting fighters in “Cowboy” Donald Cerrone (14-4), Charles Oliveira (14-1), “Smooth” Ben Henderson (12-2) and “The Mongoose” Jim Miller (20-2). All of these potentially “Fight of the Night”-quality pairings lead up to one headlining fight that promises more fireworks than Fourth of July at an amusement park between hard hitting and outspoken “The Outlaw” Dan Hardy (23-9) and Indiana fire fighter turned fight bonus winning machine “Lights Out” Chris Lytle (30-18-5). Both men have fallen on recent hard times with Lytle losing a match where victory would have landed him in title contention for the welterweight crown and Hardy losing three straight since earning his own crack at UFC gold. For Lytle, time is short at 36-years-old and he can’t afford to have another loss undo all the hard work he has done reinventing himself. For Hardy, the specter of the Zuffa headsman looms in the shadows and a failure here will likely bring the executioner of careers into the daylight for the crowd pleasing Brit.
At First Glance: This match has obvious implications for both men. Hardy had not only lost three straight, he dropped two of them for no reason other than the fact that he has almost no ground game whatsoever. While Lytle is a second degree BJJ black belt, he is a boxer first and almost always looks to stand and trade. If Hardy can’t manage to win against a man who prefers to fight in his wheelhouse, Dana White will likely lead him to the chopping block for a public execution at the post fight presser. Lytle, while he is unlikely to get cut on a loss especially considering that he has won seven bonus checks in his past ten fights, needs a win almost as badly. At 29, Hardy has time to rebuild and try again, but Lytle is 36 and after 53 fights there aren’t many miles left on the motor he’s racing. Losing two straight would likely mean “Lights Out” would have to win at least four straight to get his title shot, another two-and-a-half years that will put Lytle well past his physical prime.
In Depth: On paper, Lytle holds the cards in this bout. The Indiana fireman has the boxing to survive on the feet while he looks for a way to get Hardy to the mat where he has an overwhelming advantage. However, paper rarely tells the entire story, especially with Lytle who is a boxer at heart and has publicly stated that he would rather lose the fight the fans want to see than win one they will never remember. This is evident when one sees that three of his last four losses have earned him “Fight of the Night” honors. On the feet, Lytle has solid, technical boxing, but Hardy has raw power and the precision to make sure it lands. There are very few fighters who can stand in the pocket with Dan Hardy and Chris Lytle is not one of the few who can win a war of attrition with “The Outlaw”. Hardy will also have the distinct advantage of being the much larger man in the cage against Lytle, which will aid in defending the BJJ black belt’s takedowns. For Hardy, he needs to keep the fight off the floor at all costs and he would be foolish to rely on Lytle’s tendency to stay in the pocket to do so. This means he may have to show some patience and hold off on his fight ending bombs until he has “Lights Out” on the ropes.
Wild Card: While the Wild Card is typically a variable that, however unlikely, may win a fighter the bout, this time it’s a detriment that may spell certain doom. Chris Lytle has never been known for his wrestling and he is smaller than Hardy who is an inch taller and has a whopping six-inch advantage in reach. While there is little doubt that Lytle can take down Hardy, he lacks the wrestling skills and size to do so easily. This means that even if Lytle decides that his best chances rest in taking Hardy off his feet, there is every chance he will get tied up in the clinch where Hardy’s devastating uppercuts can cause tremendous damage.
The Verdict: Despite a significant advantage on the ground, this is a very bad match-up for Chris Lytle. Hardy is big enough to cause problems in the clinch, has both reach and power on the feet, and has been drilling for months on takedown defense that should help him stave off Lytle’s high school level takedowns long enough to land the fight-ending blows that will help get him back on track. Hardy via KO, Round 1