Cote, Hominick in the Dan Hardy zone

November 15, 2012, 9:05 AM

MONTREAL — It’s hard to claim there’s anyone on Saturday’s UFC 154 fight card with more pressure on them than Canadians Mark Hominick and Patrick Cote.

Both are coming off disappointing decision losses and each has not tasted victory in the Octagon in quite some time. Hominick has lost three straight, while Cote has dropped his last four UFC fights (though he has a four-fight win streak outside the Octagon in the middle).

And yet they still find themselves featured highly on a card in Montreal thanks to past win streaks and an ability to entertain — while still knowing the longer they go without a win, the more there will be talk of them potentially being out of the UFC again.

This is what I like to call the “Dan Hardy zone.”

Actually, the parallels for each of their careers are quite great.

Hardy, the British brawler with the flashy red mohawk, won four straight fights after he joined the UFC in 2008, which earned him a title fight against Saturday’s UFC 154 headliner Georges St-Pierre. He would lose (not surprisingly so against one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world) and then go on an extended skid, which included a knockout loss in his next bout to the other man in the main event Saturday, Carlos Condit.

But Hardy kept his job, despite the losses piling up. That’s because he had personality and a knack for putting on exciting performances, both ingredients that the UFC likes in its fighters. And despite many thinking he was a one-trick pony, the UFC was rewarded for their faith in/patience with him. He rebounded with a Knockout of the Night against Duane Ludwig at UFC 146 in May and then put on perhaps his most complete performance in a win over Amir Sadollah in September.

Cote is now following similar path. While the Rimouski, Que., native started his UFC career 0-4, he turned it around quite quickly, winning four in row in the Octagon to get a title fight against another pound-for-pound great Anderson Silva. But, just like Hardy would a year and a half later, Cote lost (due to a knee injury that caused him to pull out in the third round) and would then go on to be stopped in his next fight (by submission following a long injury layoff) en route to another four-fight losing streak in the Octagon.

Yes, Cote was released after he dropped his third straight, only to earn his way back with another four-fight win streak outside the UFC. But his performance in his return against Cung Le left much to be desired, and he now finds himself in much the same position Hardy was one year ago — with a lot of questions whether he still has what it takes to compete with the best.

Cote said he feels a bit validated by what Le was able to do last weekend in Macau — knocking out Rich Franklin, which shows that the unorthodox Le is a much tougher opponent than most gave him credit for when he beat Cote in July. But the former No. 1 middleweight contender also knows that he needs a win against Alessio Sakara on Saturday desperately. Hardy probably would not have survived an 0-5 streak, and Cote likely won’t either.

However, the Canadian isn’t concerned about the numbers and feels confident in what he believes is a favourable matchup for him.

“I don’t try to be the second Dan Hardy, I be myself,” Cote told Sportsnet.ca with a laugh Wednesday. “But I’m ready to go Saturday, and I’m 100 per cent sure in my head I’m going to win.

“Stylistically, I think it’s a great fight for the crowd, great fight for the fans, great fight for me. He’s a former pro boxer like me. I think I have the advantage of power and especially I have a better chin than him. He’s been stopped a couple times, but he’s very aggressive. Seventy percent of his fights end in the first round, win or lose.”

And then there’s Hominick, who is trying to just avoid entering the Dan Hardy zone. After a four-fight win streak in WEC/UFC, the Thamesford, Ont., featherweight earned a title shot against Jose Aldo, perhaps the third-best pound-for-pounder of the last few years (before Jon Jones came along). He very much held his own at UFC 129, surviving the young Aldo’s onslaught before nearly rallying to defeat him in the fifth round.

But that was his high. Just like Hardy and Cote before him, he experienced a big low in his next fight, getting knocked out in seven seconds by Chan Sung Jung. He then lost a somewhat surprising split decision to the lesser-known Eddie Yagin in April. Now he’s staring at a possible four-fight losing streak of his own as he faces Pablo Garza Saturday.

While Cote didn’t want to make the comparison to Hardy, Hominick said he had already drawn a parallel and inspiration from the welterweight.

“He’s one guy I’ve kind of looked at,” Hominick told Sportsnet.ca Wednesday. “He went back to the drawing board, made some changes, came back and won two straight. He’s definitely been a motivator for me. Sometimes you have to tweak a little bit to get back to what got you to the dance.”

Hominick said his tweaks involved getting back to his roots.

“I come from a kickboxing background, but in my last four-five fights all I’ve been focusing on is my boxing, my hands.”

What these three examples of fighters show is that not all three-fight losing streaks are created equal. While many fighters get cut by the UFC after just a two-fight losing streak and it’s pretty much a given that three straight strikes and you’re out, in the case of these guys, their leashes were longer.

Why? Partly because they started with a title fight in which they were not outclassed, then had a letdown (and in the case of Cote and Hominick they were under extenuating circumstances — Cote having a long injury layoff, Hominick having suffered the loss of his coach and friend Shawn Tompkins to a heart attack).

Of course the fact that they’re entertaining fighters is equally important. Each has two UFC fight bonuses in his career. But you can only get so many mulligans, and time is running out on both Hominick and Cote.

Hominick, the one of the two who is featured on Saturday’s main card, certainly feels the pressure to win, but it’s less about snapping his losing streak and more about the motivation he gets from the fact the UFC is still featuring him prominently.

“It shows they have a lot of faith in me,” Hominick said. “So it’s my responsibility now to take that opportunity I’ve been given to be on the main card and showcase why … and get my hand raised.”

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