- UFC 96 IN-DEPTH: JACKSON VS JARDINE

March 4, 2009
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by Tom Hamlin – MMAWeekly.com







Though
they could hardly be considered utility fighters, Quinton Rampage Jackson and Keith
Jardine were inked for this Saturday’s UFC 96 when several main event proposals
fell through. Jackson was expected to meet Rashad Evans for the title in the
summer, and Jardine was in limbo after a loss to Jackson victim Wanderlei Silva
and win over Brandon Vera.

 

If
things were easy – and they never are – Jackson would have waited
for the shot. But with main event worthy fights in short supply, a roll of the
dice was in order.

 

If
Jardine wins, things get complicated. If Jackson wins, things stay pretty
simple. Somewhere in the picture, Lyoto Machida lurks.

 

Striking

 

Since
making his debut on the big stage, Jardine has drawn sideways glances for his
awkward gait – a leaning, shuffling style that runs counter to the
traditional movements of fighters weaned on boxing, kickboxing, and Muay Thai.
He throws bent punches from his arms, winging them from his sides (where his
hands often sit). If there were any strikes he threw traditionally, it would be
his leg kicks, which have stung many an opponent over the years. But even then,
his hands often fly up when throwing them after punches, or when he chases a
moving target.

 

Both
fighters and fans were skeptical of him early on, but lately, more people have
begun view him as a threat, simply because he gets the job done, and for
fighters, because they can’t replicate him in the gym.  

 

That
said, Jardine has shown glaring weaknesses for aggressive strikers and straight
punchers. The placement of his hands (low) and the position of his head
(forward) make him an easy target for fighters who get inside and throw bombs.
No examples are more obvious than his quick losses to Houston Alexander and
Wanderlei Silva, who turned his lights out quick from close range.

 

But
because his attacks come from odd angles and timing, it often means he’s harder
to hit from range. He gets in and gets out, and changes pace (though he rarely
stops coming forward unless overwhelmed). Two of his biggest triumphs, Forrest
Griffin and Brandon Vera, had difficulty adjusting to the variations in his
rhythm.

 

After
many years as a brawler, Jackson’s striking has taken a technical turn. He
still likes to throw bombs, but his jab, head movement, and footwork have improved
dramatically since his UFC debut.

 

Jackson
is strongest as a counter fighter. He is willing to take an initial shot,
particularly to his legs, as a fighter closes distance. He keeps his head up,
at the ready, to return fire as they move into clinch range or backward from
punching range.

 

His
last appearance, a big knockout of nemesis Wanderlei Silva, was a perfect
example. Silva came in aggressive with a flurry of hooks, and was caught by a
well-timed hook that left him lifeless on the mat.

 

While
his knockout power gives him the ability to end the fight on a moment’s notice,
an elusive fighter is his greatest enemy. The man who took his light
heavyweight title, Forrest Griffin, worked outside combinations, and with the
exception of one right uppercut, got away before being clobbered.

 

Grappling and Submissions

 

Jackson
is far more effective from top position, using his strong wrestling base to
take fights down. His ground game is more in the style of anti-jiu-jitsu,
preferring to work position for ground and pound. When opponents threaten him
with submissions, he powers his way out of danger. He is anxious to get off his
back when put there, but he avoids damage well when he’s on the bottom. 

 

Jardine
is generally a convert to the ground game, and uses it as a supplement to his
bread and butter on the feet. Against Brandon Vera at UFC 89, he immediately
shot for a takedown, surprising all with a ground and pound attack. Though he
was not able to do a tremendous amount of damage, it illustrated his
unpredictability again.

 

Jardine’s
work with friend, teammate, and light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans has made
him more able to control the action when it hits the ground (or threatens to),
but he hasn’t been tested there for a long time.

 

Ring Control

 

Jardine,
more often than not, likes to be the aggressor in a fight. Instead of a big
rush of aggressiveness, he keeps the pressure on, wearing opponents down over
time. He can be pushed back if properly motivated, especially early on in
fights. However, he generally likes to keep moving forward.

 

Despite
being a counter fighter, Jackson will often take the center of the ring and let
opponents move him from it. Also not overly aggressive, he has developed into a
more patient fighter over time, waiting for the right opportunity to let out
short burst of aggressiveness. Sometimes, he gives too much ground waiting for
the right opportunity to strike back, but eventually takes it back.

 

Conditioning

 

As
the story goes, Jackson’s much-publicized run in with the law taught him the
value of taking better care of his body. Though he wasn’t known to expire more
quickly than the average fighter, he went on a health kick as of last year,
scrapping post-training cheeseburgers and supplementing with vitamins. With his
first round knockout of Silva, conditioning didn’t come into play. It didn’t
seem to be much of an issue for the two 25-minute fights he fought against Dan
Henderson and Forrest Griffin, either. So, if history is any indication,
Jackson will not tire in the least after 15 minutes with Jardine.

 

Jardine’s
conditioning seems to have gotten better in his recent fights that went the
distance. Against Vera, his punches kept their snap into the final minutes of
the fight. Earlier, in his days on Ultimate Fight Night cards, he seemed to
lose steam as fights wore on. But the more talent trainer Greg Jackson’s camp
has attracted, the less he seems to falter in longer battles.

 

The “X” Factor

 

Let’s
face it: Jardine seems to be an “X” factor wherever he goes. One minute he’s grinding
his opponent out, next he goes down in a blaze of glory – or defeat. As
he’s faced bigger talent, he’s gotten less consistent results, a common problem
in the upper echelon of UFC talent.

 

The
early moments of the fight will be Jardine’s unknown. If his chin is touched
early by a power puncher like Jackson, he will expire. If he can survive, and
Jackson gives him too much respect, the fight favors him as it wears on.

 

Will
Jackson give Jardine that respect? It’s been a while since he’s faced a fighter
with such a unique style; Matt Lindland, whom Jackson battled to a narrow split
decision in 2006, was perhaps the last fighter to throw him off guard. Whether
he’s equipped to negate Jardine’s style is unknown.

 

A lot
will be determined by the first few minutes of the fight.

 

Keys to Success

 

Jackson
would do well to take control of the fight early. He’s got a strong chin and
heavy hands – bad news for Jardine. He is incredibly strong, and can use
that power to muscle Jardine around in the clinch. If he ends up on his back,
Jackson needs to lock Jardine up quick to avoid a swarm of punches. But his
mission should be to get inside and throw bombs.

 

Jardine,
on the other hand, should replicate the game plans that served him so well against
Brandon Vera and Chuck Liddell. Soften Jackson’s legs with his devastating
kicks, get in and out with punches, and stay in motion. Surprise the former
champ with a takedown. If he’s pressured, circle away and re-set. Do not match
strength with strength.

 

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