It's been a long time since Dan Hardy earned the right to raise his arms and celebrate in the middle of the octagon.
The drought is over.
Hardy out-struck the seasoned striker Duane "Bang" Ludwig, knocking him out in the first round of their UFC 146 preliminary bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Hardy dropped him Ludwig with his signature left hook and then began to prematurely celebrate before realizing the fight wasn't over. He immediately swarmed and landed a few ground strikes before referee Josh Rosenthal stepped in to call a halt to the action at 3:51.
Hardy hadn't won a fight since November 2009, when he defeated Mike Swick to become the welterweight division's No. 1 contender. He'd lost four in a row since then.
"It's good to be back, it's really good to be back," Hardy said afterward. "The only one thing that's bittersweet, Duane's always been kind of a hero for me ... Seeing him hit the canvas it was good for me, but I love him so much."
Hardy is now 24-10 with 1 no contest in his career.
Ludwig had his moments in the earliest part of the fight, scoring with counters and a sharp right hand. But Hardy turned the tide quickly, scoring with a hard left hook out of a clinch, and it wasn't long afterward when he got the finish.
Ludwig fell to 29-13, losing for the second straight time.