Greg Hardy wins another UFC fight with an assist from coronavirus, Daniel Cormier

Greg Hardy said the empty arena on Saturday allowed him hear valuable fight advice from a cageside announcer. (Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

So this wouldn’t happen with a packed house.

Greg Hardy won the opening fight of Saturday’s UFC 249 pay-per-view card over Yorgan De Castro by unanimous decision. He got an assist from ringside announcer Daniel Cormier in the process.

Cormier, the former two-division UFC champion, was cageside for analysis on Saturday as the fights took place with social distancing protocols amid the coronavirus pandemic. That means no fans were in the stands at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville.

With no crowd noise to fill the arena, the announcers’ voices carried into the cage. And Hardy said he took a tip he heard from Cormier to heart in the middle of the heavyweight matchup.

“Thank God for not having the crowd,” Hardy told Joe Rogan in his post-fight interview. “Shout out to DC. I heard him tell me to check him, so I started trying to check him. Game changer.”

Cormier’s second assist of the night

Hardy wasn’t the first fighter to thank Cormier on Saturday.

Carla Esparza won a split decision over Michelle Waterson in the undercard. She told reporters after her win that she too heard Cormier criticism and changed up her strategy in the middle of the fight because of it.

How Hardy won

De Castro attacked Hardy’s left leg repeatedly early in the first round before backing off in a fight that saw very little action. De Castro appeared to injure his right foot and allowed Hardy to take over as the aggressor en route to a unanimous decision by a 30-27 on all three scorecards.

Neither fighter landed many blows, but Hardy remained on offense for most of the fight.

Hardy’s controversial rise continues

It was a big win for Hardy, who improved to 6-2 in the UFC with a victory in his first appearance on a pay-per-view card. He remains one of the most controversial figures not just in UFC but in all of sports.

The former Pro Bowl defensive end was blackballed from the NFL after a domestic violence conviction that was later overturned when the alleged victim declined to cooperate with prosecution on appeal.

But Dana White welcomed Hardy into the UFC, where’s taken advantage of his second chance en route to a 6-2 start with a no contest that resulted from his in-fight use of an inhaler at UFC Boston in October.

Would he have picked up Saturday’s win under normal circumstances? We’ll never know.