• UFC 146

Thumping knockout announces the return of Dan Hardy

ESPN staff
May 27, 2012

Not since November 2009 had Dan Hardy tasted victory, but all it took was one trademark left hook to announce the return of The Outlaw as he knocked out Duane Ludwig in stunning fashion at UFC 146 on Saturday.

Hardy had been going through hell as a fighter, losing four on the bounce to have many armchair pundits questioning his place in the UFC. A closer look, though, reminded anybody who cared to listen that Hardy had been beaten by champions in Georges St-Pierre and Carlos Condit, a physical specimen in Anthony Johnson, and the always-difficult Chris Lytle.

Battered by critics, Hardy had a choice: to quit, or to knuckle down and silence his doubters. Typical of the Brit, he chose the latter.

Moving his training camp to the US, Hardy had spoken of how confident he now felt as a genuine mixed martial artist. Against Ludwig it showed, and the result was a first-round knockout that drew comparisons to a previous win against Rory Markham.

Ludwig is a superb striker, and he hurt Hardy early, but this time Hardy refused to play the careless crowd-pleaser, clinching and connecting on the release. Using feints and footwork, Hardy bided his time, and the left hook that sparked the end landed so cleanly that he celebrated before the ref had even stepped in.

"It's good to be back, but this is a bittersweet fight for me, Duane's been a hero of mine," an almost tearful Hardy said. "Seeing him hit the canvas was great for me but bad for him. He deserves respect.

"You know when you've landed a good shot, you feel it connect. I've got a great team, I'm so happy to be back."

Hardy's fellow Brit Paul Sass scored the biggest victory of his career in the lightweight division, totally outclassing the awkward Jacob Volkmann to win via triangle armbar. Volkmann had won his last five fights, but he lasted less than two minutes against Sass who worked his wizardry on the mat.

Holder of the record for consecutive wins via triangle choke, Sass wasted no time in pulling guard. Volkmann naively engaged in the ground battle, and he was quickly outwitted as Sass forced the instant tap with a triangle armbar that was stunning in its execution.

Staying in the lightweight division, the shock of the night came from former WEC champion Jamie Varner, who finished Edson Barboza via first-round TKO to completely smash the hype surrounding the Brazilian.

Barboza had been linked to high profile fights with Donald Cerrone and Anthony Pettis as a title shot began to loom on the horizon, following his Knockout of the Year contender against Terry Etim. However, after eating a series of leg kicks Varner staggered his man with a big right hand, dropping him with a series of follow-up shots before a catalogue of hammer fists finished the fight.

Performance of the prelims may well belong to Glover Teixeira, who turned a plethora of heads with a demolition job on Kyle Kingsbury in the light-heavyweight division. Hugely-rated for a long time, Teixeira has been kept from making his UFC debut by out-of-Octagon issues. However, he made an almighty splash as he clubbed Kingsbury to the mat before locking on an arm triangle at 1.53 of the first round.

UFC 146 results:
Junior Dos Santos bt Frank Mir at 3.04 of round 2 via TKO
Cain Velasquez bt Antonio Silva at 3.36 of round 1 via TKO
Roy Nelson bt Dave Herman at 0.51 of round 1 via KO
Stipe Miocic bt Shane del Rosario at 3.14 of round 2 via TKO
Stefan Struve bt Lavar Johnson at 1.05 of round 1 via armbar
Darren Elkins bt Diego Brandao via unanimous decision (29-28 29-28 29-28)
Jamie Varner bt Edson Barboza at 3.23 of round 1 via TKO
CB Dollaway bt Jason Miller via unanimous decision (29-28 30-26 29-28)
Dan Hardy bt Duane Ludwig at 3.51 of round 1 via KO
Paul Sass bt Jacob Volkmann at 1.54 of round 1 via triangle armbar
Glover Teixeira bt Kyle Kingsbury at 1.53 of round 1 via arm triangle
Mike Brown bt Daniel Pineda via unanimous decision (29-28 29-28 29-28)

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