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UFC 249 Preview: Hardy vs De Castro

Official UFC 249 Poster: Hardy vs De Castro

Background

This fight announcement between Greg Hardy (5-2-0, 1NC) and Yorgan De Castro (6-0) was initially met with a degree of confusion.  Firstly, many raised their eyebrows when they saw this fight on the main card, particularly with UFC legends, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Anthony Pettis featuring last on the prelims.  Secondly, De Castro is a largely unknown figure in the sport of MMA. 

Additionally, both Hardy and the UFC have faced fierce criticism since Hardy joined the organization.  Hardy – although a gifted athlete – has a dark background story.  He was effectively released from the NFL in 2015 after being convicted of assault on his former girlfriend.  The charges were soon dropped, but many fans question Dana White’s interest in a man with such a tainted history.  Most fans don’t believe that either is deserving of their spot on such a stacked card because of this.

Regardless, both men are massive Heavyweights with tremendous knockout power.  Hardy, however, (although quickly finding his feet since joining the UFC) has had a bizarre run of results.  He made an immediate statement on Dana White’s Contender Series’ 9 & 16 before making his UFC debut at 3-0; all of his wins coming by way of KO/TKO.  In those victories, he highlighted his ability to turn his opponent’s lights off with a single strike.  He was then disqualified when he hurt Allen Crowder on debut with an illegal knee to a grounded opponent. 

Hardy’s reaction to the DQ against Crowder. Photo by givemesport.com

Hardy then went on to win his next two fights by TKO to get things back on track.  He was then involved in controversy once again, beating Ben Sosail via unanimous decision, only to have the result overturned because Hardy used an inhaler in between rounds.  The fight was then ruled a no-contest for obvious reasons.  Following on, Hardy took a fight on short notice against top-10 contender Alexander Volkov. This was after Hardy’s teammate, Junior Dos Santos, pulled out due to a skin infection.  To Hardy’s credit (and perhaps one of the reasons Dana White has taken a keen liking to him), Hardy has shown a willingness to fight often. This rewarded him the chance to compete against one of the bigger names in the Heavyweight division.

Volkov won comfortably in the three-round co-main event, but Hardy proved himself by showing that he has the capabilities to compete against the top tier at Heavyweight.  Hardy went on to lose via unanimous decision but went the distance with Volkov in a somewhat competitive bout.  That experience against a seasoned UFC Heavyweight will likely increase his chances of beating De Castro on May 9. 

Hardy & Volkov exchange blows. Photo by Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Adding to the previous comment about Hardy’s activity, he’s since stated that he wants to live on “Fight Island”.  In an interview with TMZ, he said: “Dana, man, listen.  If you’ve got quarters, I will stay on that island, bro”. He then went on to suggest that he wants to fight every few weeks, stating: “I’ll live on it [Fight Island] and break my own record that I tied last year – 100 percent”.  So, while Hardy’s UFC tenure has been controversial, his desire to fight will surely result in seeing a lot more of him in the coming months. 

De Castro lands a huge right hand to KO Tafa. Photo by Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

De Castro, on the other hand, has only fought once in the UFC.  He has also only fought professionally since 2017, racking up five finishes with four coming in the first round.  Despite his lack of experience, De Castro won his UFC debut in convincing fashion, finishing Justin Tafa via KO in the first.  However, prior to making his professional debut, he was 1-2 as an amateur. So, although he’s had success since turning pro, there are definite question marks surrounding his overall game. Particularly as he’s only been fighting for just over five years.  With the glimpses we’ve seen of De Castro, he’s far from a slouch, but that’s going off a small sample size.

Breakdown

On paper, both men almost mirror one another in terms of records and professional experience.  They’re also similar in build and rely heavily on finishing their opponent quickly.  This can be said for a large portion of the heavyweight division, but it holds true for Hardy and De Castro.  The one key difference is Hardy’s 4-inch height advantage coupled with a sizable 6-inch reach advantage.  Hardy will need to utilize both to keep De Castro at a range that nullifies the latter’s power. 

Hardy closes the show vs Austen Lane. Photo by DWTNCS LLC via Getty Images

While this has the makings of a close contest, Hardy appears to have more tools at his disposal. However, both men have a 100 percent finish rate to this point and they must be respectful of each other’s power.  Despite neither fighter being technically gifted, Hardy also has an advantage when it comes to athleticism.  That physical prowess that Hardy carries in his favor could be another factor in a matchup that looks relatively even on paper.  For De Castro, his best chance of victory is to mimic Volkov’s efforts of keeping Hardy at range. De Castro needs to utilize his jab and kicks and not allow Hardy to get within range of landing that one-punch knockout.  This can be said for Hardy too. 

De Castro celebrates after UFC Debut triumph. Photo by Getty Images

Prediction

Although this fight may be one of the least important across the card, it has knockout written all over it. And it’s worth watching for that reason alone.  On the flip side, when two Heavyweights with such power face-off, they can often be too respectful of each other’s knockout ability which can lead to a dull fight.  Hopefully, both men are in the mood to put on a show on the night.

Hardy is the bookmaker’s favorite (-210) but this really could go either way.  That being said, it would probably be safe to assume that this one will be decided by one punch.  Advice for viewers on this one: don’t blink.  This one will probably come to an abrupt halt in the early stages of the fight with Hardy the more likely to have his hand raised quickly. 

Pick: Hardy via TKO (round 1)


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