5 burning questions heading into UFC on ESPN+ 21

You’re still in a bit of a hangover mode after UFC 244, you say? Too bad. The UFC machine stops for no one.

With the 500th UFC card of all-time in our rear-view mirror, the second half of the company’s march toward 1,000 begins with UFC on ESPN+ 21 in Moscow on Saturday. And as far as UFC events go, if last week’s was a night in which it felt like the eyes of the greater sports world and even the culture at large were fixated upon MMA, this one feels like … well, whatever the opposite of that is.

Still, some of you will get up to watch this event, which is headlined by an interesting featherweight contenders matchup between Zabit Magomedsharipov and Calvin Kattar, so for you diehards, who will watch absolutely everything with the UFC logo attached, here are a handful of decent reasons to pay attention. 

UFC on ESPN+ 21 takes place Saturday at CSKA Arena in Moscow. The card streams on ESPN+.

Without further ado, then, here are five burning questions heading into the card, starting with, really, the one thing drawing in most of the viewers:

Will we see Greg Hardy get KTFO?

When the UFC fast-tracked heavyweight Greg Hardy into the main roster this year, this was how everything was supposed to go down: The company was expecting that all publicity would be good publicity, and that after an initial outrage period, people would get used to having an unapologetic convicted domestic abuser on the card. ESPN would be able to use his NFL name for ratings success, and after the initial controversy died down, some of the more gullible media chuckleheads would start writing “What if Greg Hardy is actually a hero?” columns, then Hardy’s momentum in the cage would take care of the rest.

That was the blueprint. Things haven’t exactly gone to plan.

Hardy (5-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC) has been handed gimme opponents to a degree that would embarrass Sage Northcutt. But he’s proven that even against 1980s “Superstars of Wrestling”-caliber opposition, if you get him into the second round, he gasses. And when he gasses, his go-to move is cheating. We saw that in his first fight, when he was DQd with a blatantly illegal knee, and in his most recent, against Ben Sosoli last month, in which he went for an inhaler after noticeably slowing in the second round.

If one thing was clear coming out of UFC Boston, it’s that simply going forward with Hardy vs. the latest handpicked jobber of the month was fast becoming untenable. Perhaps Hardy gets that, too, which would explain why he’s taking a gigantic leap in competition, against former Bellator champion Alexander Volkov, on the latter’s home turf. Hardy stepped in when Junior Dos Santos had to pull out of the planned main event.

Maybe Hardy pulls a staggering upset against Volkov (30-7 MMA, 4-1 UFC) despite there being no evidence on paper this will happen. Or maybe the reason most people are tuning in will happen: Hardy will get his head knocked halfway back to South Florida, and the clip will go viral, and the UFC will have their opportunity to get out from under one of the more unfortunate chapters in its 25-year history, or at least downgrade him enough so that we don’t have to keep watching an atrocious person’s atrocious fights over and over. 

8 months ago

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