The co-main event is an intriguing tilt between two fighters looking to rebound from disappointing losses.
On one side is Keith Jardine, the consensus pick as LHW gatekeeper and Rashad Evans' bodyguard, coming off a unanimous decision defeat at the hands of Quinton "Rampage" Jackson at UFC 96.
Opposite him is Thiago Silva, a dangerous striker who was on the wrong end of a Lyoto Machida onslaught at UFC 94, earning him his first career loss.
Somebody is going home with two straight losses. Time to figure out who.
"The Dean of Mean" Keith Jardine (14-5-1) vs. Thiago Silva (13-1-0)
Normally, any member of Team Jackson would earn a distinct edge over the competition in the always important "Training Team" category. However, that changes when the other guy comes from the 1-A of outfits in Mixed Martial Arts, American Top Team.
Without question, both these guys will come into the fight with sound game plans and in great shape. With the number of top-tier training partners available to them, anything less would be a surprise.
In terms of previous competition, Jardine has a clear advantage. While Silva can make the case that he's been in the cage with the current LHW champ, he was left looking up at the lights at the end of the first round.
On the other hand, Jardine has scored victories over former champions Forrest Griffin and Chuck Liddell, in addition to trading shots with "Rampage" and having a brief in-ring encounter with Wanderlei Silva.
An interesting wrinkle to this fight is the "How will Silva respond to his first career loss?" angle.
Everyone knows how Jardine usually responds to a loss; he comes out and wins his next fight, as his last six fights have followed that alternating pattern.
Silva, however, had never tasted defeat before Machida knocked him senseless back in January. There is always the possibility that he comes out a little gun-shy, not wanting to land on his back looking at the lights again.
That being said, he responded like a wild animal released from a cage when Antonio Mendes had him rocked in his last fight before facing Machida, so there is a good chance he will come to this fight more ready than ever.
Stylistically, this is an interesting fight.
Jardine has shown the ability to both knock people out (Griffin) and stick and move effectively enough to earn a win on the scorecards (Liddell, amongst others). That being said, he's also shown a distinct ability to get laid out in no time flat when he decides to stand and bang.
What is Thiago Silva's greatest strength and usual approach?
Deadly hands used to stand and bang with bad intentions.
Either way, a win here doesn't put either man right into the title picture.
Jardine is clearly a gatekeeper and will never ascend to the top spot without putting together a string of victories. He'll continue to pull off upsets and serve as a scout for Rashad Evans, with surprising losses and tough battles mixed in between.
Silva, on the other hand, has more potential to climb to the higher regions of the LHW ladder, with the intriguing "his only loss is to Lyoto Machida" aspect obviously playing a part.
That being said, there are already a number of worthy contenders waiting in line for "The Dragon," so a second consecutive quality win would be required before any title talk could take place.
Of course, the flip side is that a second straight loss could drop him right down to the bottom of the heap and a future fighting TUF cast members and new hires.
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