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UFC Fight Night 163: Former NFL star Greg Hardy puts “Gypsy King” on Notice

UFC Fight Night 163 is scheduled to take place Saturday, November 9th, 2019 at the CSKA Arena in Moscow, Russia with a featured main event attraction between UFC featherweights Zabit Magomedsharipov (17-1, 6 KOs) and Calvin Kattar (20-3, 9 KOs) live on ESPN+ beginning at 2:00 PM EST. The bout was originally scheduled for UFC on ESPN 6 in October, but was later rescheduled for this weekend after an inexplicable injury forced the Dagestani native to withdraw from the originally scheduled date. The evenings co-main event will feature a heavyweight showdown between Alexander Volkov (30-7, 20 KOs) and former NFL standout Greg Hardy (5-1, 5 KOs).

Magomedsharipov is a student of the famed “Five Directions of the World” boarding school, also known as “The Shaolin of Dagestan.” The genuine hype, praise and hope behind Zabit is the stuff legends are made of, “He’s not a top 10 guy, he’s a top 5 guy. He could be champ today,” Zabit’s coach Mark Henry told MMAFighting.com’s Ariel Helwani. “I’ve seen a natural in baseball, football, boxing but never MMA. Just too many disciplines. He’s the first natural MMA fighter I’ve ever seen, he can do it all,” said Henry. Which is high praise coming from the coach of former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, who is among the sport’s most elite fighters and perennial championship contenders to this very day.

At times, Zabit Magomedsharipov appears to be something straight out of the Matrix. If you’ve ever wondered what a kung fu based mixed martial arts fighter looks like, Zabit is as close to the Hollywood depiction of a Shaolin warrior monk as we’ve seen yet on the real combat sports arena known as the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Standing in Zabit’s way Saturday night, is “The Boston Finisher” Calvin Kattar, a former high school wrestling standout from Methuen, Massachusetts with big power in his hands and the kind of gas tank conducive to dragging people into deep waters where they inevitably drown.

Fresh off a controversial UFC on ESPN 6 fight victory against Ben Sosoli that was promptly overturned to a no contest (NC) following his use of an inhaler in-between rounds, the evenings co-main event see’s former professional football player Greg Hardy step in on short notice to fight the towering 6-foot-7 Russian knock out artist Alexander Volkov.

As being perhaps among the first combat sports writers to come out in support of Hardy in the face of group think and mob rule, it pains me to write that in my opinion every single one of Greg’s fights in the UFC has an asterisks mark beside it. His inaugural match against Allen Crowder at UFC Fight 143 in January ended in disqualification after an illegal knee to his grounded opponent. The UFC President himself, Dana White, described Hardy’s next fight at UFC Fight Night 150 against Dmitri Smoliakov as “weird,” even going as far as to say if he was a fan or a member of the mixed martial arts media that he would think that this contest was a “set-up fight.”  

Next, at UFC on ESPN 4 Hardy, faced opponent Juan Adams in a rather disappointing affair that saw Adam’s all but lay down for Hardy in a 45-second TKO stoppage loss to the American Top Team representative. Which of course brings us back full circle to Hardy’s last fight against Sosoli at UFC on ESPN 6, now forever known as “Inhaler Gate,” where Hardy’s team, consisting of experienced mixed martial arts professionals, allowed Hardy to use an inhaler in-between rounds after curiously obtaining permission from a Massachusetts State Athletic Commission official who was told the inhaler was USADA approved. It was a decision that cost Hardy a hard-earned victory in the Octagon, and one which has unfortunately contributed to an overall opinion within the mixed martial arts community that Hardy is in over his head in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

And with that perception, comes the reality that Greg Hardy is now the black sheep and underdog going into virtually every fight moving forward in the UFC. Which means those who have paid close attention to the particulars of Hardy’s career, instead of joining the rest of the marks in the crowd, know that it would be unwise to continue to sleep on a Greg Hardy who is a proven A-level athlete with a known competitive drive that will ultimately serve him well in the cage once the pieces begin to come together. Provided Hardy sticks with mixed martial arts long enough, I will not be in the least bit surprised to see the former NFL star upset some very good heavyweights moving forward into the future.

Hardy, whose skills are improving both inside the cage and out, recently posted in a November 7, 2019 Twitter social media message that, “The good news is Tyson Fury, I am gonna come to the 10oz world very soon my friend,” wrote Hardy. “So with all do respect (shout out Ricky Bobby) if you have the stones to take a whooping in the ring and octagon,” Hardy wrote before signing off as, “The most Active….”

An apparent reference to recent media reports that Hardy is the first fighter in 2019 to have appeared in the mixed martial arts promotion an incredible 5-times, an impressive feat for a relative new comer to the sport. As a company man and UFC work horse, expect the unexpected at UFC Fight Night 163 in Moscow as Hardy steps up on short notice to take on his most dangerous test yet in Russian knockout artist Alexander Volkov. As the anatomy of the fight game suggests, anything can and often does happen in mixed martial arts action, tune in to ESPN+ Saturday afternoon starting at 2:00 PM EST to catch all the action.