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The Breakdown: Jardine vs. Silva

Michael DiSanto, UFC - UFC 102 is filled with intriguing bouts.

Two legendary former champions, Randy Couture and Antonio Rodrigo Minotauro, will finally square off in a fight that fans have been clamoring over for almost a decade. A pair of top middleweights, Nate Marquardt and Demian Maia, will answer the question of who stands alongside Dan Henderson as the division’s top threat to champion Anderson Silva. Brandon Vera returns against rugged veteran Krzysztof Soszynski in a fight that will go a long way toward proving whether Vera really is ‘The Truth’ at light heavyweight.
By Michael DiSanto

UFC 102 is filled with intriguing bouts.

Two legendary former champions, Randy Couture and Antonio Rodrigo Minotauro, will finally square off in a fight that fans have been clamoring over for almost a decade. A pair of top middleweights, Nate Marquardt and Demian Maia, will answer the question of who stands alongside Dan Henderson as the division’s top threat to champion Anderson Silva. Brandon Vera returns against rugged veteran Krzysztof Soszynski in a fight that will go a long way toward proving whether Vera really is ‘The Truth’ at light heavyweight.

None of them, however, has greater potential for Fight of the Year fireworks than the light heavyweight matchup between Keith Jardine and Thiago Silva. From the time the referee signals for the action to begin until he waves off the action, the bout should feature nonstop standup action between two of the more dangerous strikers in the division.

Jardine is an extremely unorthodox kickboxer. I liken his style to that of a drunken monkey. It doesn’t much matter whether readers interpret that to mean an actual primate high on fermenting fruit or an actor from the movie “Shaolin Temple” circa 1982. Jardine’s fighting style resembles both.

He likes to bounce around with his hands held extremely high, above his eyes at times, and wide, well outside of the width of his head. It is almost comical to watch, though his opponents stop laughing the minute he lands a right hand to the jaw or one of those chopping kicks to the body or legs. He used the former to drop Chuck Liddell in the opening round of their September 2007 bout, reversing the tremendous momentum Liddell built up through the majority of the round. He used the latter to sap Liddell of his power and energy, turning him into a stationary target that Jardine picked apart for the remainder of the fight.

Even though he now fights for the American Top Team, Silva still fights with the traditional Chute Boxe Academy style—bloodthirsty, stalking Muay Thai attacks. He sets up punches with leg kicks, fires his left and right hand in bunches, and looks for knee strikes from the Thai clinch once he closes the distance. Silva also earned a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt, so obviously he has a serious ground game, but he has no interest in using those skills unless it is absolutely necessary.

Sound familiar? He is basically a younger, faster carbon copy of Wanderlei Silva, which isn’t surprising when one reads Thiago’s profile on UFC.com and learns that he lists former Chute Boxe mentor as his hero.

That could bode well for the Brazilian because his mentor brutally stopped Jardine at UFC 84 15 months ago. Wanderlei crumbled Jardine to the canvas with a massive right hand to the temple and instantly pounced on his fallen foe with some ferocious ground and pound. The bout lasted less than one full minute. I’m sure Jardine doesn’t remember a thing about that painful contest.

The younger Silva, who is not related to his elder namesake, hopes to score an equally impressive win at UFC 102.

To do that, he needs to do what comes naturally—jump into Jardine’s face and press the action from opening bell. That tactic did not work very well for Silva in his last bout. Facing elite counter striker Lyoto Machida, Silva found his aggressive style to be his own downfall. Machida was able to effortlessly slip and counter Silva’s overly aggressive attacks en route to a first round knockout, the first loss of Silva’s professional career.

It is difficult to predict how anyone will react to their first loss, particularly when it is by knockout. Silva needs to forget about that fight. There is nothing that he can take from the Machida loss to help him against Jardine because the two are very different fighters.

Jardine does not possess the speed or counter striking ability of Machida. He doesn’t sit back and wait for an opponent to make a mistake like the current 205-lb champion. He instead pushes the pace with right kicks to the leg and body. He will follow up the kicks with right hands, occasionally mixing up the sequence by feinting with the kick and leading with the right.

Yet, Jardine is a notoriously slow starter, suffering two of his four UFC losses by knockout in less than 60 seconds. That is why Silva should return to his ultra aggressive ways early in the bout. He needs to jump on Jardine before he gets into a rhythm with his in-and-out attacks.

By contrast, Jardine will want to maintain the distance early in the fight by constantly circling and avoiding a gunfight. He should land quick, hard leg kicks to try and slow Silva’s attacks, but he needs to get out of the pocket after landing those kicks because his opponent will respond instantly by throwing punches laced with bad intentions.

The problem, however, is that Jardine isn’t one to avoid a gunfight. The lone exception to that is the opening round of his fight with Liddell, when Jardine opted to retreat in the face of his attacker until he got his sea legs under him. He will likely plant his feet and fire back when Silva attacks, which is why this fight is so intriguing.

So, who is going to win? That is the $64,000 question. This fight could very well come down to who lands first during the inaugural salvo because I firmly expect Silva to attack early and Jardine to plant his feet and fire back.

Silva has had more success in fights that have ended early, scoring three of his four UFC wins by way of first round knockout. Only one of Jardine’s six UFC wins occurred in the first round, though it came against an aggressive, hard-charging Forrest Griffin. The other two times Jardine’s bouts ended inside the first round he was on the wrong side of a knockout. Thus, Silva is the logical favorite if the fight ends early.

If the fight lasts into the third round, the odds of Jardine winning increase dramatically. Interestingly enough, Silva has never ventured into the third round during his brief UFC career, so it is difficult to judge his conditioning. We don’t know if he can keep up his aggressive style for the full 15 minutes.

Jardine, on the other hand, has fought to a judges’ decision six times, winning four of them. There is no question that he can fight hard for three five-minute rounds.

Finally, both fighters are coming off a loss. For Silva, this is a new experience. As mentioned earlier, the Machida bout was the first loss of his professional career. There is no way to predict how he, or any fighter, will react to his first professional loss. Did it chip away at his previously impervious confidence? Will he be the same aggressive, in-your-face fighter that he was before the loss? If he has any self doubt entering the Octagon, that could be a factor in the fight.

Jardine has lost four times in the UFC. The first three times he rebounded with a huge win over a top opponent. Will this be his fourth such effort?

I’m leaning toward Silva by first round knockout, mainly because he has more weapons in his arsenal and his aggressive style is tough for a slow starter like Jardine. Nevertheless, Jardine has proven me wrong before. Whoever wins, this bout should be an action-packed war for as long as it lasts, one that could very well steal the show at UFC 102.
sábado, abril 26
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