There are a number of notable fights and fighters on this UFC Fight Night 24 card. And with every UFC card, there are also fighters who face the chopping block if they lose or promotion within their division if they win. Kris McCray vs. John Hathaway is a fight that will likely send the winner packing. But there are no two other fights where the winners have more to gain that Dan Hardy vs. Anthony Johnson and Phil Davis vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. The two main events (Davis vs. Nogueira is the headliner) are not just notable for being excellent match-ups between top fighters within their divisions, but because they are battles of contenders looking to advance in UFC divisional hierarchy. They all need wins over the others to enter the top five in their respective weight classes.
First, let's take a look at the co-main event between Hardy and Johnson. Johnson is coming into this bout from a long layoff. Hardy is looking to rebound after being flattened by Carlos Condit. Here's what BloodyElbow.com had to say about the fight in terms of predicting a winner:
The upside is that Johnson has significant advantages in this fight. He possesses the reach advantage and proven power to stop Hardy in his tracks. The more technical striker is Hardy however, lending some credence to the idea that Hardy can avoid Johnson's reach and get inside. It's a difficult proposition considering Johnson's three straight knockout wins prior to his loss to Koscheck.
But it isn't a convincing enough case in the face of such a long layoff for me to pick Johnson. I do, however, think Johnson is a strong bettor's pick due to the advantages he has over Hardy. Reach is tough to beat against strikers who know how to utilize it. Johnson has the know-how to keep opponents at bay, but Hardy is ballsy enough to throw caution into the wind to win a fight. Can he do that against Johnson? I don't know. He does, however, have the technical prowess to counter Johnson and come out victorious on Saturday night. I'll bank on Hardy putting away a fading Johnson in the second.
I largely agree. Here's my official prediction:
Without all of the issues and distractions for Johnson, I'd ordinarily like him to win here. Add in Hardy's inability to wrestle at the same or even similar level, and again, I'd like Johnson to win. But I suspect Hardy's improved and with Johnson's layoff/personal issues, we have no idea what to expect. I think Hardy's very much overrated, but he's been active and rapidly improving. Hardy via TKO.
Ordinarily I'd pick Johnson. He's a better athlete with better striking and better wrestling. And while he appeared to make weight yesterday without issue, he's had a tremendous layoff with personal battles sprinkled throughout the sabbatical. That does not inspire confidence.