August 21, 2009

More is the line than just another victory when light heavyweights Keith Jardine and Thiago Silva clash at UFC 102. Both men enter the Octagon off defeats -- Jardine was outpointed by Quinton "Rampage" Jackson back in March, Silva took his first career loss in January to champion Lyoto Machida -- and now both are fighting for relevancy in the UFC's stacked 205-pound division.

A second straight loss could be fatal for either fighter, especially with rising stars such as Jon Jones and Luiz Cane, and veterans Tito Ortiz, VladimirMatyushenko infiltrating the already steep competition.

Of course, neither fighter will vault into immediate title contention with a win -- the winner of Rashad Evans vs. Rampage in December will likely next get that honor. Silva only has one loss to his name, but he's yet to defeat a formidable opponent in the UFC. And Jardine, though he's upended a number of elite challengers, like Forrest Griffin and Chuck Liddell, he followed each with first-round defeats, to Houston Alexander and Wanderlei Silva.

For Jardine and Silva, one win won't be enough for a title shot -- now or in the near future. But a loss could send them fading into light heavyweight oblivion.

Jardine is known as "The Gatekeeper," a fighter with enough talents and guile to challenge anyone in the division. And a victory would allow him to keep such a title.

Another loss, however, would mark the first time in his career he has suffered back-to-back defeats, and a drop down the ladder would certainly be in order.

Unlike some fighters who recently received their walking papers following consecutive defeats, Jardine should have no such worries. The UFC wouldn't think of letting a well-known and recognizable name like Jardine become available for their new enemies at Strikeforce.

Should Silva emerge victorious, a spot alongside Jardine in the upper echelon of the light heavyweight division is a possibility -- though not a guarantee -- and heightened competition would be warranted.

A loss, however, could spell doom for the American Top Team member, as two defeats to upper-tier talents greatly outweigh four wins over fighters who are now with a different organization or fighting at a different weight.

The adage "styles make fights" has to be thrown out the window every time Jardine takes the ring. His technique isn't pretty, but it gets the job done. Usually, that is.

Both fighters prefer to keep it standing up, and they've shown they have no problem ending a fight with their hands. However, they've also shown they can get knocked out, which means, as much as they will look to stand and trade, they'll keep a safe distance and ensure they aren't left looking up at the lights when the final bell rings.

Silva showed great resiliency in coming back from being staggered early against Antonio Mendes at UFC 84, but Jardine simply possesses better aptitude and skill in dangerous situations. Look for "The Dean of Mean" to take a similar approach as the one used to knock off Liddell at UFC 76: sticking and moving, keeping his opponent guessing with an assortment of leg kicks and off-tempo strikes, while maintaining enough space to avoid his dangerous hands.

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