The Severe Spotlight: George Hardwick

Steel eyed, and with rhythmic breath, George Hardwick set the tone of his title defence.

Inside 11 seconds the first leg kick landed on Scottish challenger, Chris Bungard. Those leg kicks, alongside the rapidly rising fame of Hardwick body shots become the tale of the fight.

Hardwick uses measured footwork, and an ultra-tight guard to consistently remove space from his opponents. He will squeeze that space from the cage as he moves both laterally and forward at the same time. Combine those constant forward and lateral pressure ingredients with head movement, level change fakes and angle feints and you have George Hardwick.

Defensively aware. Both, of the shots coming toward him but also of the leg kick returns from Bungard, Hardwick batted both away as his marauding campaign of forward pressure continued. Checking leg kicks, punishing them, and returning fire with his hands.

The interesting element of George Hardwick is his seeming lack of gameplan, but instead an understanding of the techniques in his arsenal, and his willingness to use whatever applies well to the individual fight. That is the sign of both a supremely confident fighter, but also of what the next era of MMA evolution will look like. After the first leg kick lands, Hardwick realises that it’s a deep well full of riches, at 4:15 he lands the first crushing counter right hand, and notes that down in the fight’s ledger. Hardwick might just prop up a significant portion of Moleskine notebooks.

Inside low kicks, outside low kicks, oblique kicks were on the menu, the outside low kicks being the most damaging. Hardwick landed them in a myriad of scenarios. From faking up top, and forcing Bungard to reset, catching him on the reset. As a method to push Bungard back, as a punishment for attempting to land and leaving Bungard off balance and of course at the end of combinations. This is simply inside the first two minutes of the first round.

3:06 the body shots began. Step to the right, short right hand to a dipping left body shot, immediately into the clinch.

There is beauty to the dilemmas posed to Bungard by Hardwick. Those dilemmas span three realms. The first being the footwork and the cage cutting, not allowing Bungard space to work and to develop his own game. Next is the middle range with the counters and the low kicks, Bungard doesn’t want to explode into space, primarily because it’s understood that the footwork is good and will cause counter attacking angles to be created and his eagerness punished, but also because the leg is compromised from the low kicks. Then, we see that as Hardwick dominates those two areas, there is seldom room left for Bungard to utilise and so he is left to retreat to the inside space range and fight from there, and there is where the body shots are. Middle of the combination, liver puncturing body shots.

Bungard attempts to gain respect back with his own leg kicks, but Hardwick checks them and immediately lunges himself into attacks. The epitome of the Hardwick game comes with around 2:30 left in round one. The pressuring footwork has Bungard backed up toward the fence, a low kick forces him to momentarily turn away – Hardwick then unleashes a body jab, strafing left to a shot to the head, followed by another body hook.

The constant measuring, feinting and faking forced Bungard to make rash movement decisions, and continued to open up the variety of attacks that Hardwick wanted. This is reinforced around 1:59 left in round one. Hardwick pokes a teep to the knee of Bungard. Hardwick then takes some shuffle steps to his left, lowering his level at the same time, Bungard very aware of the right hand, so Hardwick goes left jab to the body as he squares up, Bungard attempts to retreat to his own left-hand side, Hardwick slides right and shuts the door. Bungard now not in a good balanced posture allows Hardwick to slam a left hook to the lower abdomen as he comes over the top with a big right hook. That right hook turns into both a frame, and a cover over the mouth, as he lines his man up for two clean knees to the same spot before ducking and rotating out and away to safety.

Round one ends with more significant punishment to the lower leg of Bungard.

Round two begins with the same elements of pressure, and the same diversity of shots. Bungard is operating on a compromised leg and is aware of not only further shots to the leg, but the big left hooks to the body, and the big right hands over the top. These are the types of dilemmas that limit someone’s arsenal, their offence.

Hardwick in the opening minute is now far happier to trade. He understands that he is getting to his opponent and is getting too him in a way that is causing him bountiful issue. He also understands that the power generation of a lot of the shots from his opponent has been diminished, therefore he is more willing to take risks.

A lovely body teep followed by two low leg kicks have Bungard biting on kicks that aren’t coming, instead Hardwick snaps his head back with a jab before slamming yet another leg kick into the lead leg of Bungard, spinning him round. This is smart fighting. Hardwick is getting dividends on his investments, whilst continuing to invest. His diversity in the array of his shots means with some smart choice, can have all of them.

The erosion of Bungard continues in the same patterns throughout the second round. Hardwick eventually finds the fight ending shot with less than a minute of time left on the clock. Having landed yet another low kick, Bungard throws and lands with a solid jab as Hardwick strafes to his left. The jab does not deter Hardwick as he continues to cut the cage. Bungard expects a right hand or a right low kick, as he extends his left arm to block, and raises his left knee to check. Instead, Hardwick fakes the right hand, but switches his shoulders, and lands a perfect left body shot. Bungard immediately drops to the canvas clutching his side and with a pattering of ground and pound, Marc Goddard calls mercy.

George Hardwick should be on his way to the UFC.