Keith Jardine: The Sheep in Wolf's Clothing
At first glance Keith Jardine may appear to be the big bad wolf, but in reality he’s the proverbial sheep, the UFC’s quintessential sacrificial lamb.
Jardine will once again drag his wolf-like persona back into the octagon for a main event matchup at UFC 96 against former light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson on Mar. 7.
A victory by Jackson is rumored to earn him a title shot against current champion Rashad Evans at UFC 100. On the other hand, if Jardine comes out on top, he simply gets another formidable feather in his cap and steps up another rung on the ladder.
Is Jardine aware he is in the stepping stone position more times than not and chooses to use it as motivation? Or is he relatively oblivious and simply goes about his business one fight at a time regardless of the opponent?
Either way, I certainly do not intend to be the one to explain this quandary to him.
After all, he is the “Dean of Mean.” A guy I would not want to run into in a dark alley even if his profession was not a mixed martial arts fighter.
He’s 6’2”, 205 pounds of Greg Jackson-trained bar room brawler. A guy nobody in their right mind would mess with.
He has the intimidating blank stare. The piercing blue eyes. The shaved head. The cauliflower ears and the long, flowing goatee.
He looks like a combination of Mr. Clean and Colin Farrell’s character Bullseye from the movie Daredevil.
His fighting style is equally as chaotic as his appearance. He will stand and trade looping haymakers. He’ll bust out his kickboxing skills and try to take away the base of his opponents, but only if he feels the urge.
He will purposely approach his striking at odd angles to throw guys off their game plan. His goal is to be unpredictable and frustrating and most of the time it works.
The impending matchup with Jackson should come as a surprise to no one. It seems like every time the UFC light heavyweight division needs a guy to step up to give credibility to an opponent, whether it be a guy making a run to title contention or one who needs a big rebound, Jardine gets an incoming phone call from matchmaker Joe Silva.
This is certainly not a new concept Jardine. He has also found himself the sacrificial lamb in past fights with Forrest Griffin, Chuck Liddell, and Brandon Vera.
UFC 66 was the scene of his fight with Griffin. Griffin walked into the fight being The Ultimate Fighter Season 1 winner and overwhelming fan favorite. Jardine subsequently crashed the party with a brutal first round technical knockout.
When former champion Chuck Liddell needed a rebound fight and a sure victory coming off a championship fight loss to Quinton Jackson, Jardine once again got the call to be the first step in the road back to a rematch against Jackson for Liddell.
Once again, it did not go as scripted. Jardine picked apart Liddell for three rounds, mainly because of his repeated vicious leg kicks, and recorded a split decision victory in the main event at UFC 76.
Brandon Vera succumbed to a similar fate. Just prior to the fight with Jardine, Vera was seen as the future of the light-heavyweight division after coming down from heavyweight to his natural weight class.
Vera was first given a mulligan for his unimpressive decision victory over Reese Andy in his first cut to 205 pounds in which he looked severely sluggish and dehydrated. UFC 89 was then pegged to be his light heavyweight coming out party.
Who would Vera fight to start his path of destruction all the way to the championship belt? None other than Keith Jardine, who would go on to earn a three round decision victory that evening and once again prove doubters wrong.
Enter Quinton Jackson, who as previously mentioned, is the next opponent looming on the horizon. Once again Jardine finds himself the designated sacrificial lamb who is simply buying time for Jackson before he can take on Evans.
Will Jardine once again play spoiler and prevent Jackson from getting his title shot?
That remains to be seen, but I certainly will not be counting him out. This would not be the first time the lamb has been thrown in the deep end of the pond and paddled out.
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