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UFC 89: Preview Jardine vs. Vera

Keith Jardine (13-4-1 MMA 5-3 UFC) vs. Brandon Vera (9-2 MMA 5-2 UFC)

It seems to be an easy task for the UFC to make a compelling and competitive fight at 205lbs anymore as the division gets more stacked by the day. The recent migration of Brandon Vera from the Heavyweight division adds another potential title contender to most talented division in all of MMA. Both fighters come into the match with high expectations and a lot to prove.

Keith Jardine is an alumni of season 2 of The Ultimate Fighter with a pretty impressive list of wins in the UFC so far. Jardine’s list of victims includes the likes of Wilson Gouveia, Forrest Griffin, and Chuck Liddell. An awkward striker with very good power and excellent leg kicks, Jardine wasn’t given much of a chance to make a name for himself early on in his career. But Jardine seemed to thrive off of the negative vibes and kept on impressing people with his wins. Jardine seems to have issues when has a big win, he then takes 2 or 3 steps back with an even bigger loss. Jardine comes out and TKO’s Forrest Griffin. He then loses to Houston Alexander. Jardine comes back from that loss and beats Chuck Liddell in a convincing unanimous decision. He then comes out and gets steamrolled by Wanderlei Silva in 36 seconds. Jardine’s career is in constant flux, and he needs a big win over Vera to get him back on the road to the elite of the division.

Jardine’s striking is unusual to say the least. He sort of throws side-arm punches, they have power but come at you from very unorthodox angles. Jardine’s head movement is also very abnormal, but it gets the job done. Vera says it best himself. Jardine’s opponents get caught up in trying to figure out his style, meanwhile he will knock them out. Jardine has developed excellent low kicks, and uses them as an efficient jab to keep opponents at bay. Jardine’s wrestling is decent and can keep himself from getting into troubles during the scrambles. His Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is mostly defensive but he can catch the occasional armbar if it presents itself. Overall Keith Jardine has a pretty well rounded game even though his style is not the prettiest to watch. He has done an excellent job of adapting what he does well to the MMA game.

Brandon Vera is a superstar in the making, just ask him if you don’t believe me. Brandon took the UFC by storm after entering it with an undefeated record. An impressive opening win against Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt Fabiano Scherner was just the beginning for Vera. His next three fights in the UFC were all first round TKO stoppages that was capped with a decisive stoppage of former heavyweight champion Frank Mir in under 2 minutes. Not only was the brash and well-spoken Vera winning, he was dominating and capturing a fanbase while he did it. Vera was embroiled in a long contract dispute between the UFC and his old management which kept him out of a projected title shot against then champion Tim Sylvia for over a year. When Brandon did come back, everything changed. Sylvia was no longer the champ, but more importantly Vera no longer fought with his normal care free attitude. When you fight not to lose instead of fight to win, bad things happen. A loss to Tim Sylvia and Fabricio Werdum opened the door for a move and a fresh start at 205lbs. Vera’s initial foray was a lackluster win over IFL reject Reese Andy. He left that fight with more doubters than supporters at his new weightclass.

Vera is a very talented and complete MMA fighter. Vera started as a wrestling standout in high school in Virginia and then in the Airforce. With such a ground fighting pedigree you would never think his striking would be adequate. The joke is on us, as he is an excellent Muay Thai practitioner with beautiful fluid movements and footwork. A pure athlete, Vera excelled at all aspects of the sport. He took up Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under Master Lloyd Irvin and rose to the level of Brown belt in record time. Vera is a threat to submit from any position on the floor and uses his wrestling to control the scrambles and the position battles. His Muay Thai has blazed a trail of unconscious bodies through the UFC. Vera can not only talk the talk, he can walk the walk.

This fight is a very compelling matchup to me. Even though both fighters are coming in from different situations, they both are fighting for respect and position in the most talented weight class in the world. Jardine needs to prove to UFC brass that he is worth an investment as he tries to renegotiate his TUF 2 contract. He needs to show consistency and an ability to handle pressure. Vera needs to show the UFC that he can be the fighter of old, the Muay Thai wrecking ball that was mowing down opponents and gathering fans. Vera also is approaching a contract renegotiation and will need to prove that the UFC didn’t make a mistake by investing so much money in such an inexperienced fighter. There are two certainties in Vera’s favor. He is the more talented fighter and has the clearer game plan for victory. If Vera forces the action and stays in Jardine’s face, along with his reach and muay thai striking he will knock Jardine out. Jardine does not like being pressured and has problems defending from a defensive stance. Jardine will need to get on his bicycle and keep this fight to the outside and hope to catch Vera making a mistake and getting frustrated. I think Vera will win this fight via TKO round 2 and send Jardine back to the drawing board.

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