by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
“Ultimate Fighter 2” Housemates Square Off: Keith Jardine Prepares For His Fight With Former Roommate Mike Whitehead By Damon Martin, MMAWeekly

While the world awaits the winners from the “Ultimate Fighter” season 2 to make their first official appearances inside the UFC octagon, New Mexico native Keith Jardine will have his first outing since competing on the season 2 finale show when he defeated Kerry Schall, a short lived housemate who was forced out of the competition early due to injury.

Despite giving up a great deal of size to the much larger Schall, Jardine imposed his gameplan and chopped away at his opponent, eventually winning by TKO after some devastating leg kicks ended the fight in the second round. While Jardine feels he could compete at heavyweight, it is the 205lb division where he feels at home.

“It just made it a little awkward,” Jardine commented about fighting Kerry Schall. “I wasn’t able to go toe to toe with him as much as I would have liked to just because of his height and his weight. It went just the way we planned though.”

Another former housemate awaits Jardine as he is matched up this time against Mike Whitehead in a light heavyweight bout. Jardine and Whitehead were each of their teams respective number 1 pick for the heavyweights on the show, and a great many people thought they may be in the finals against one another. It was the premise of this potential fight that kept the fighters from ever becoming that close on the show.

“I had a couple of friends on the show, but me and Mike always knew that we were going to fight each other at some point so we kind of kept our distance from each other. We never got real buddy-buddy during the show. My best friends on the show were Big Dan (Christionson) of course and Rashad, Seth and Brad.”

Regrettably, both fighters wore tired during the season and were defeated by the eventual champion, Rashad Evans. Jardine was obviously upset that he didn’t win the competition but still feels like the pros outweighed the cons and the overall experience was a positive turn in his career.

“There’s no cons at all because I’m fighting for the UFC now,” said Jardine. “So my destiny is in my hands right now. It was such a hard experience, I mean anything is easy compared to that. I found a few holes in my game which had never been exposed before. I was able to patch them up and become twice the fighter I was easily since I was on the show.”

Despite losing to Rashad Evans on the show, the two fighters remained close even after the show and now train together, and Jardine thinks his one time roommate has a bright future ahead of him in the UFC.

“He’s going to do great,” said Jardine about Rashad Evans. “In fact we’re pretty good friends. I had him down here helping me get ready for this Whitehead fight.”

With his focus on the fight coming up at UFC 57, Jardine has been training with a who’s who list at Greg Jackson’s camp in New Mexico, but despite the influx of new faces in the gym, Jardine, who has been with Jackson since the beginning, realizes how special his teacher really is.

“The more time goes by the more I realize how lucky I am, the more I get exposed to other camps and teams, I realize that Greg Jackson is the best,” said Jardine. “Our team is accountable here. Nate (Marquardt) has came down here for two weeks to help me get ready for the fight. Joey (Villasenor) is always here. And that’s what’s so special about this team, I mean guys like Rashad or Mike Van Arsdale will come in and pick up on that right away, just feed on the atmosphere.”

Now Jardine will face a very strong wrestler in Whitehead who was a heavy favorite going into the “Ultimate Fighter” show but looked extremely lackluster in his fight with Rashad Evans, prompting rumors at one point that he may not even fight again. With the UFC giving him a shot at redemption, Whitehead will come into this fight at 205lbs looking to beat Jardine and regain some of the respect he may have lost after his performance on the show.

Mike Whitehead is a good wrestler with a solid overall game, but Jardine feels confident in his skills matched up against his opponent at UFC 57.

“I’m faster, I’ve got better hands,” said Jardine. “I’m a better grappler, I mean he’s a better pure wrestler, but I’ve been working that for so long in my camp, I’ve got Rashad Evans and Mike Van Arsdale working with me and they’re both better wrestlers than Mike (Whitehead) is. I’ve had my fill of wrestlers over here.”

The light heavyweight division is starting to fill up a little bit more now with the return of former champion Tito Ortiz, and the rise of top talent like Renato “Babalu” Sobral, Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar, but if Jardine is victorious how long does he believe he’ll have to wait at a shot at one of the top dogs?

“Right after this fight,” said Jardine with confidence.

Keith Jardine will get his chance to continue to climb the ladder of the 205lb division when he takes on Mike Whitehead at UFC 57 on February 4th.