By Damon Martin, MMAWeekly
Season 1 Meets Season 2: Ultimate Fighter Vets Meet In Main Event
Stephan Bonnar vs. Keith Jardine: UFN Preview
By Damon Martin, MMAWeekly

For all the backbiting, name calling, and harsh treatment that some of the fighters from the Ultimate Fighter reality show have gone through due to their perceived “easy” road to success, a great many veterans have tasted defeat at the hands of these “reality” stars. Now fans will enjoy a main event pitting one of the very best from each season against one another in the main event of Ultimate Fight Night when season 1 runner up Stephan Bonnar takes on former #1 heavyweight pick from season 2, Keith Jardine.

In this fight, Stephan Bonnar will be making his 3rd appearance in a row on the Ultimate Fight Night series, his 4th in a row if you count the Ultimate Fighter finale show, and he has subscribed to a very successful formula so far. His first appearance on live tv saw him put on one of the best fights in UFC history when he slugged it out with Forrest Griffin for three rounds to determine the winner of the Ultimate Fighter season 1 light heavyweight division. While Bonnar lost a very close decision, he put on such a show that the UFC would have been crazy not to keep him around, and instantly offered him a contract as well.

In his first official UFC appearance after the finale, Bonnar fought and defeated another season 1 alum in Sam Hoger, winning by decision. While the fight was much closer than many expected it to be, Bonnar pulled out a victory and moved on to what many perceived to be one of the toughest fights that any of the Ultimate Fighter stars would face yet. Bonnar drew James “Sandman” Irvin as an opponent and speculation began as to whether Bonnar would stand and trade with a well known knockout artist or if he would play the smarter hand and take the fight to the ground where his jiu-jitsu and wrestling skills would display his dominance.

The answer came very early in the first round.

With the start of the fight barely underway, Bonnar secured a takedown and began working feverishly for a quick submission to end the fight. Before long Bonnar had locked on a kimura and despite very valiant efforts from Irvin to break free, he eventually had to tap out giving Bonnar another very impressive win. Now Bonnar tries to keep his streak alive by taking out another very tough opponent in Keith Jardine.

When the Ultimate Fighter season 2 debuted, a few fighters were well known, others not so much, but coach Rich Franklin had his eye on one particular heavyweight when the picking began to assign each fighter to a team. While Keith Jardine was one of the smallest heavyweights coming into the show, Franklin knew that he possessed a killer instinct for winning and came from a very good team training with Greg Jackson and his camp from New Mexico.

Jardine was a veteran of King of the Cage and had shown both superior striking skills and submission work in all of his fights prior to the show. He was also a very hard worker who many had said would eventually end up being a force in the UFC if ever given the opportunity. During the show Jardine remained fairly soft spoken, never getting into any major drama with any other housemates, quietly biding his time and waiting for a chance to fight.

It wasn’t until the semi-finals of the heavyweight division that he was finally picked to fight when he took on Rashad Evans for the chance to make it to the finals of the show. Jardine looked very good in the first round, landing some very heavy shots that rocked Evans and it seemed like it was going to be his fight to win, but as the fight wore on, Jardine got caught by some very good strikes from Rashad, and was then taken down multiple times by the former collegiate wrestler. When the decision came in after three rounds, Rashad Evans got the win but even UFC president Dana White said he was impressed with Jardine’s performance and they brought him back to face Kerry Schall during the Ultimate Fighter 2 finale show.

Jardine was able to showcase the true skills that everyone was talking about during the show when he chopped down Schall throughout the fight, eventually winning by TKO after a series of devastating leg kicks toppled his much bigger opponent. Jardine finally made the move to light heavyweight where he seemed much more at home, and got another big win by defeated his former housemate Mike Whitehead at UFC 57 in February. Jardine again showed superior striking when standing and when the fight made it to the ground, he looked completely comfortable and was able to withstand taking any kind of real punishment and worked his way back to his feet on almost every occasion that he was taken down. After three rounds the judges scored a unanimous decision in Jardine’s favor.

Keith Jardine will now face his toughest challenge on the biggest stage possible as the main event of a live nationally televised event when he faces Stephan Bonnar at Ultimate Fight Night. This fight is very important to both competitors because a win will put them right in line to start facing off against the top 2 or 3 fighters in that division, while the loser will have to re-tool and climb back up that slow ladder to success.

The key to success in this fight for Stephan Bonnar is to play to his strengths and not let pride get the better of him when facing a dangerous striker like Keith Jardine. While Bonnar himself is a former gold gloves level boxer, his real strength lies in his ground game, training under the legendary Carlson Gracie and his team. While Jardine is no slouch on the ground himself and is not likely to get caught in any easy submission, Bonnar is a very strong light heavyweight who knows how to keep the pressure on his opponent when controlling them on the ground.

Keith Jardine on the other hand is a very capable striker who uses every weapon at his disposal in a fight. He will throw heavy hands, knees and kicks to work his opponent over and has very good power when he lands his shots. Jardine has a very good ground game training with people like Nate Marquardt and Diego Sanchez, but he prefers a stand up fight and would like to win by knockout if at all possible. If the fight goes to the ground, Jardine is more than capable of catching a submission but has also shown great skills against former wrestlers to be able to scramble and stand the fight back up.

This fight is very even when looking at it on paper. Both fighters are very well rounded. Both fighters have tremendous stand-up and ground games. Both fighters have a never say die attitude and work hard during every second of the fight, always looking to finish and get the win. The difference may be the bright lights of the main event of the nationally televised event. This will be the first main event fight for both men, but Bonnar has faced the limelight more often and everyone has seen the difference that the crowd and the TV cameras can make for a fighter stepping up to a main event for the first time.

Either fighter could easily walk out victorious and fans are sure to be treated to a great battle between these two top ranked 205lb warriors. Stephan Bonnar and Keith Jardine will face off at Ultimate Fight Night, live on Spike TV on Thursday night.