Brooklyn native Heather Hardy was both the hometown favorite and the favorite to win the mixed martial arts match against Kenosha native Taylor Turner on Friday night during a Bellator 222 undercard bout at New York City’s Madison Square Garden.
None of that apparently bothered Turner.
In a dominating victory and the biggest of her career, Turner — a 2001 Tremper graduate who trains out of Knoxville (Tenn.) Martial Arts Academy — controlled the women’s catchweight (125 pounds) match from the start and never let Hardy up for air, winning by TKO (punches) in the first round at 3 minutes, 53 seconds.
Hardy — a boxing champion who crossed over to MMA and was 2-1 entering Friday — was considered a heavy favorite over Taylor, who’s much less well-known in MMA circles judging by social media reaction before, during and after the fight among MMA fans.
Well, that may change now.
Turner, 36, picked up her third consecutive victory — all via first-round stoppages — to improve her record to 4-5 after suffering a five-match losing streak from 2015-18.
Needless to say, Turner was overjoyed during her post-match press conference.
“I have a feeling I won’t sleep for days,” she told reporters. “I’ve dreamt about this, and I thought it could come true and had faith in it, but it still is unbelievable. For all those losses, for all those hard times, this feeling you can’t buy.
“... This is why you do it. I wish I had better words, but both words and silence transgress between, just, it is. I wish I could tell you more, but it’s probably the top of the mountain.
“... This is probably the top of my career right now. I try not to look too far ahead. I’ve tried to learn to live in the moment a lot more, but I can’t even imagine what would ever top this, to be honest. This is ... heaven.”
Evidently, the match was never close.
Wrote Nolan King of the website MMA Junkie after the fight:
“From the opening bell, it was evident Turner wasn’t phased by Hardy’s name or accomplishments in combat sports.
“Smiling at Hardy during the opening exchanges, Turner was able to gain control on the ground early on in the fight. Swiftly passing to mount, Turner landed shot after shot on Hardy, (whose) best attempt to fight back was an unsuccessful hammer-fist from the bottom.
“After trying to sink in a rear-naked choke attempt from the back, Turner then returned to mount, where she landed dozens of unanswered strikes to the New York boxer.
“With Hardy unable to escape Turner’s wrath, referee Blake Grice had no choice but to step in and wave off the bout at 3:53 of Round 1.”