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UFC 102 Preview: Keith Jardine vs. Thiago Silva

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I read a great article on a MMA website back in March after Keith Jardine's decision loss to former light heavyweight champion Quinton Jackson. The author referenced the following famous quote from Heywood Broun to sum up Jardine's career: "The tragedy is not that man loses but that he almost wins." I could see why some would view Keith's career in such a light. It does seem that he'll often get a quality win and then follow-up with a disappointment. After appearing on season two of The Ultimate Fighter, Jardine steadily improved as a fighter and found a home with Greg Jackson's camp in New Mexico. Despite a few losses where he was caught early, Keith has spent much of his MMA career making life difficult for some of MMA's better light heavyweights. After an up and down run in the UFC thus far, Saturday presents a huge opportunity for Jardine to get back in the win column on a big stage against an opponent that would appear to be inclined to stand and bang with him. Jardine has a professional record of 14-5-1 with six wins coming by way of knockout and two wins coming by submission. The combined career winning percentage of the opponents that he has faced is 65.8%.

Thiago Silva is a fighter that is still a bit of a mystery. He has looked very good at times. Then there was a shaky performance in his victory against Antonio Mendes followed by his first round KO loss to Lyoto Machida. I still maintain that there is little shame in the loss to Machida. But this 26-year-old still has a lot to prove to some of the critics in the fight game that question his place in the UFC's 205 pound pecking order. Luckily for him he has a great opportunity right in front of him. If Thiago can come out and put on a good performance and beat a solid veteran like Jardine, it would give his supporters much more ammunition to argue that he is a rising star in MMA's deepest weight class. Silva has a professional record of 13-1 with ten wins coming by way of knockout and two wins coming by submission. The combined career winning percentage of the opponents that he has faced is 67.0%.

I'm in agreement with a lot of the MMA journalists that are insisting that this fight has the potential to be Fight of the Night. Thiago Silva's 10 KO wins suggest that he is likely to try and test Jardine in the standup early. It's difficult for me to determine which fighter has the better striking. Jardine has shown that he can successfully utilize leg kicks as part of an effective strategy against a potent striker (see his fight with Chuck Liddell). In addition, Keith has a bit of an unorthodox style that seems to keep opponents off-balance during the course of a fight. If you don't catch him very early in the fight he's a difficult guy to look good against. I think we see some lively exchanges in this one but I think that "The Dean of Mean" grinds out the win over the course of three hard-fought rounds. My prediction: Jardine by decision.