While a middleweight matchup between Michael Bisping and Chris Leben is the marquee attraction for Saturday’s UFC 89 event at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham, England, the televised portion (SPIKE TV, 9 P.M. ET) of the show will also feature a light heavyweight battle between Keith Jardine and Brandon Vera.
Tomorrow’s bout is crucial for both fighters, as neither can afford a loss at this point. For Jardine, he has recorded major victories over the likes of Forrest Griffin and Chuck Liddell. However, he has been unable to convert those victories into a shot at the UFC light heavyweight title due to the fact that both wins were proceeded by tough losses to Houston Alexander and Wanderlei Silva.
After losing to Silva in quick fashion this past May at UFC 84, Jardine needs to deliver at UFC 89 in order to avoid suffering consecutive losses in a UFC light heavyweight division that seemingly gets deeper on a monthly basis.
Despite being on the horizon of such a high-pressure fight, Jardine still took time out in the UK to conduct an exclusive interview with FiveOuncesOfPain.com less than 48 hours prior to facing Vera.
FiveOuncesOfPain.com: You have some big wins on your resume against the likes of former UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell and current UFC light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin. However, you followed up each win with losses against Houston Alexander and Wanderlei Silva. Both Alexander and Silva are very aggressive fighters. Do you feel the losses were coincidental, or do they employ a style that has been a challenge for you to combat thus far?
Keith Jardine: Honestly, against Houston, I just got caught. Simple as that. It happens. Wanderlei had a perfect game plan for me, baiting me into throwing a kick and then hitting me with that overhand right. That was totally my fault. I guess I’d say they were coincidental.
Q: It seems like Vera has been very aggressive at times in his fights but has been a little more tentative recently. Have you had to prepare for two different styles?
KJ: Yeah you train for both. If he holds back, I’ll force the fight, and if he comes after me, he’ll run into a wall.
Q: How exactly does Greg Jackson come up with his gameplans? What’s he doing that other camps aren’t?
KJ: Actually, Mike Winkeljohn is and always has been my standup instructor, he’s the mastermind behind my striking. Greg is obviously a great teacher of the ground game, and I think between the two of them, Greg is the maestro that puts it all together. He’s so thorough in researching opponents.
Q: I don’t expect you to give away any secrets, but have you guys been able to identify some specific flaws in Vera’s game that you plan to exploit Saturday?
KJ: There’s obviously a game plan we have based on what we have seen. You’ll just have to wait and see.
Q: We’re doing this interview while you are in the UK and I just wanted to see how long you’ve been over there at this point.
KJ: We flew out Sunday and got into Birmingham on Monday morning.
Q: Are you still on your original contract from The Ultimate Fighter reality show?
KJ: I’m just out of my TUF contract and very happy with my contract now.
Q: The depth in the UFC’s light heavyweight division is insane. In addition to you and Vera, you’ve got Liddell, Griffin, Evans, Wanderlei Silva, Thiago Silva, Alexander, Mauricio Rua, Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, Lyoto Machida, and other names I am leaving out. Does the amount of talent in the division add pressure in that one loss can really send a fighter pretty far down the ladder?
KJ: Not really because I’ve been fighting nothing but top ten guys the past two years, so every fight has been like a title fight along the way. I think it might not be a bad thing at all to have a division this stacked – more good fighters means more potential matchups to make great fights.