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Dan Hardy embraces Matt Serra comparisons before title fight

Georges St. Pierre says similar scenario with Hardy gives him shot at redemption from Serra fight

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Courtesy of UFC

Dan Hardy (right) connects with a left hook to Mike Swick during their welterweight bout at UFC 105 on Nov. 14 2009. Hardy won the fight by unanimous decision.

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In his first fight of 2010, UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre will enter the octagon a heavy favorite against a brash, confident underdog, whose only shot at winning the fight, in the eyes of many, amounts to little more than a puncher's chance.

Sound familiar?

St. Pierre (19-2) will look to defend his welterweight title against top contender Dan Hardy (23-6) in the main event March 27 at UFC 111, under circumstances eerily similar to his first fight with Matt Serra in April 2007.

Serra shocked the mixed martial arts world that night when he landed a right hook that St. Pierre never was able to recover from and led to a TKO victory for Serra in the first round.

The similarities between Hardy and Serra have been so obvious that even the fighters have acknowledged them, as Hardy elected to spend the final weeks of his preparations alongside Serra at the former champ's gym in Long Island, N.Y.

"I came out to New Jersey to finish camp, because I didn't want to fly out too close to the fight," said Hardy, who lives in the U.K. "I decided to put some feelers out to see if there was an opportunity to train with Matt and he was very welcoming."

Although St. Pierre came back to reclaim the title from Serra in 2008, Hardy obviously admires what Serra showed in the first upset and believes he can benefit from spending time with the only fighter to record a win over the champ in the last five years.

"More than anything, Matt's been in there twice with Georges," Hardy said. "He has a lot of experience with the guy. He made some mistakes in the second fight that he can relate to me so I don't make the mistakes myself.

"He looks at me and sees the same situation he was in. No one gave him a snowflake's chance in hell, but he believed in himself. He's been generous with his time, and he's helped me out."

While Serra may be able to give first-hand information on St. Pierre, it doesn't seem like Hardy needs any tips on letting his hands go after out-slugging both Mike Swick and Marcus Davis in his latest two wins.

Although St. Pierre's game leaves little to criticize, the impact of Serra's right hook three years ago still leaves some wondering about the champ's ability to take a punch.

With six more wins under his belt since that fight, some against talented strikers such as Josh Koscheck, B.J. Penn and Thiago Alves, taking a punch isn't a concern of St. Pierre's.

"I take a lot of shots when training — I'm not worried about me getting punched," St. Pierre said. "When I fought Serra, I got caught with a looping punch right behind the ear. Then I got hit with five haymakers before it was called."

If there is a welterweight in the division right now capable of landing numerous shots in a short amount of time, it's Hardy.

The British fighter even has spent time working with boxing trainer Freddie Roach in Los Angeles. Roach is best known for his helping welterweight boxing champion Manny Pacquiao.

Similar to Serra in 2007, Hardy has little to lose in going against such a favored fighter as St. Pierre and says he'll be willing to take risks throughout their championship fight.

"I've been in this situation 100 times before. Every time I step in the octagon I'm supposed to lose," Hardy said. "I'm stepping into this fight believing I'll do what I've done before.

"Georges is going to push me in areas I need to be pushed. I want to explore every aspect of this sport, and I'm hoping Geroges is the guy I can do that against. I have nothing to lose so I can take risks in this situation."

Perhaps the one biggest difference between Hardy and Serra is that St. Pierre has the experience of going through this before and may be better prepared to avoid the upset a second time.

If nothing else, St. Pierre says the memory of the Serra fight and the comparisons being made to it have motivated him for his next title defense.

"It's a chance for me to redeem myself," St. Pierre said. "I fell last time to Serra in this same situation and I look at this as redemption.

"I believe I have a lot more pressure on me than Hardy of course, but that's a good thing. If you look at all the big fights where I've been under pressure — B.J. Penn, the rematch against Serra, the (Matt) Hughes rematch — those were great fights for me. I perform better when I'm under pressure."

Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected]. Also follow him on twitter: LVSunFighting.

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