by Jeff Cain – MMAWeekly.com
UFC 89 hosted two light heavyweight match-ups featuring two Top 10 ranked fighters. No. 9 ranked Keith Jardine and Brandon Vera went the distance, while Luiz Cane was able to finish No. 7 ranked Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou by technical knockout.
“The Dean of Mean,” Keith Jardine, who holds wins over Chuck Liddell and UFC light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin, was coming off a knockout loss to former Pride titleholder Wanderlei Silva. Vera was making his second showing in the 205-pound division, coming off a lackluster decision win over Reese Andy.
Both entered the trademarked Octagon needing wins, each being defeated in two of their last three outings. Jardine landed a takedown just 10 seconds into the fight where he worked ground and pound inside Vera’s guard. Vera was able to cut Jardine with elbows from the bottom and worked for a Kimura, but it was Jardine inflicting the damage.
The referee stood the fighters up with two minutes remaining where they immediately clinched and quickly separated. Vera sent Jardine to the canvas with a punch only to be dropped soon after. The round ended with Jardine trying to finish Vera who was on his knees pressed against the cage.
The second stanza was razor close with each waiting to counter. Jardine attempted a high kick that Vera was able to catch and get the action to the ground. Jardine worked back to his feet absorbing a knee to the mid-section in the process. The remainder of the round saw Vera landing effective body kicks with Jardine pursuing him.
The final round was much like the second with the two light heavyweights picking and choosing when to exchange and when to counter. Jardine took Vera’s back standing and began landing punches before Vera was able to break free. The round closed with Jardine elevating the pace launching enormous shots. The judges’ scorecards reflect how close of a contest it was with two scoring it 29-28 for Jardine and one 29-28 for Vera resulting in a split decision victory for the Greg Jackson trained Jardine.
“I’m getting these guys every fight that could be the best in the world,” Jardine said in his post-fight, in-Octagon interview with Joe Rogan. “I always thought Brandon had the best kickboxing, better than Chuck Liddell’s, better than Forrest Griffin’s, better than anybody’s. He was fast. He took me out of my game a lot.”
Jardine is back on track to continue to get bouts with the top fighters in the division. For Vera, who has one fight remaining on his current contract, the loss is major set back. Many thought he would have instant success when he made the move down from the heavyweight division, but that has been anything but the case.
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, known as a fast starter, came out aggressive with leg kicks, body kicks, uppercuts and combinations. Luiz Cane weathered the storm and when the pace slowed half way through round one, the Brazilian began to find his timing and range. Watching, you could sense the momentum change with Cane becoming the stalker.
Sokoudjou, visibly fatigued, picked up the pace to start the second round, but the aggression was short lived. Cane began landing jabs and delivered two well-placed knees that put the Cameroonian on the defensive. Cane followed up with a left hand that sent Sokoudjou to the canvas where Cane finished him with a series of devastating left hands.
Cane made his Octagon debut at UFC 79 losing by disqualification after landing an illegal knee to James Irvin rendering him unable to continue. He rebounded by dominating Jason Lambert at UFC 85 via TKO. With the win over Sokoudjou, Cane moves from prospect to contender in the UFC’s 205-pound division.
Sokoudjou made a name for himself when he came out of nowhere to knockout Ricardo Arona and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in Japan. He also made his Octagon debut at UFC 79 losing to the undefeated Lyoto Machida. Heading into the bout with Cane, his third fight in the UFC, Sokoudjou was coming off a win of Kazihiro Nakamura. The loss to Cane will likely knock Sokoudjou out of the Top 10, but the 24-year-old has long career ahead of him.
The win over Sokoudjou was strong enough to earn Luiz Cane UFC 89 “Knockout of the Night” honors and the $40,000 bonus check that accompanies it.