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Although he's only had five professional fights, the stories that have followed Hardy made the UFC bill his contest against Dmitrii Smoliakov as the co-headliner of Saturday's event. Despite Hardy's novice experience, the ex-defensive end overpowered his Russian opponent winning the fight by TKO at 2:15 of Round 1.
Hardy's victory brings his UFC record to (1-1), but Saturday's fight almost didn't happen. In January, Hardy's highly anticipated UFC introduction ended abruptly when the fighter was disqualified for hitting Allen Crowder with an illegal knee. Due to Hardy's troubled past, fans wondered if he had purposely kneed the vulnerable Crowder. However, Hardy vehemently denied these accusations blaming the blow on his inexperience.
"He was getting up, it was inexperience in mistiming it, man. But I (tried) to time it like I had just watched Donald Cowboy Cerrone do, like I saw everybody else do," Hardy explained. "Go ask Tom Brady if I ever cheated when I sacked him. I’m not a cheater. That’s not on my record, that’s not on my resume."
Still, critics were skeptical of Hardy's intentions. This left a hanging question mark around Hardy's future with the company that was answered when the UFC elected to grant him the fight against Smoliakov. It was clear by the swiftness of his victory that Hardy did not want to waste this chance at redemption. He used a powerful uppercut to knock Smoliakov to the ground. Yet, unlike his fight with Crowder, he paid close attention to his blows when rushing Smoliakov to gather a clean victory.
"I wanted to make sure it wasn't the same as last time," Hardy said during his post-fight interview. "Every day, I'm getting better. Every month, I'm getting more violent, more nasty in the Octagon, more humble and peaceful outside of it. I'm just coming into my own. I love this sport."