Keith Jardine: Climbing to the Top

Oct 13, 2006
Keith Jardine (Pictures) is well-spoken, calm and does not talk smack. But once the cage is locked Jardine trades in his mild-mannered alter ego and becomes a fighter.

The “Dean of Mean” (11-2-1) is back in action this Saturday night as he squares off with The Ultimate Fighter 3 alumnus Mike Nickels (4-1) at UFC 64 “Unstoppable.”

Jardine has not been in the Octagon since June 24 when he won a unanimous decision over American Top Team’s Wilson Gouveia (Pictures) at the TUF 3 finale. The fight was an absolute war, with both fighters getting the fair share of exchanges.

“He surprised me,” Jardine said of Gouveia. “He came out and he was really fast and he hit real hard and he’s a really good fighter.”

Even though Jardine won a decision he was quick to point out the mistake he made against Gouveia: “I fought flat-footed that whole fight.”

During his last two bouts Jardine has unleashed some serious leg kicks that made both Stephan Bonnar (Pictures) and Gouveia think twice about checking. But even though in both fights the leg kicks could have made the difference in points from the judges, Jardine simply said, “Well we’ll see — I’m getting better, too.”

In April of this year Jardine suffered only his second loss in almost five years as a pro, falling short in a close unanimous decision to Bonnar; it was Jardine’s only blemish in the four fights on his UFC record.

“Everyone knows that that Bonnar fight should have been my fight,” he said. “I still get approached everyday about that. I am 3-1, but I don’t necessarily look at it that way.”

Jardine admits that people still ask him about that fight and he makes his case to them. “I remind them that it was a close fight and if you leave it up to the judges that can happen,” he said.

While training in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Jardine has worked on a daily basis with some of the elite fighters in the game today, including Joey Villasenor (Pictures), Diego Sanchez (Pictures), Mike Van Arsdale (Pictures), Rashad Evans (Pictures) and Nate Marquardt.

Jardine and company train at Jackson’s Gaidojutsu Submission Fighting in Albuquerque, and he thinks that this will be the difference for him.

“The wars I go through in camp are just incredible,” he said. “Me, Rashad, and Nate just beating each other up. When I go into my fight on Saturday it’s almost like, ‘Thank God,” I get to hit someone else.”

The UFC light heavyweight class is filled with big names like, Evans, “Babalu,” Forrest Griffin (Pictures), Tito Ortiz (Pictures) and, at the top, Chuck Liddell (Pictures). Jardine will have to make his way up that ladder to get where he wants, and he said he is willing to fight anyone, including heavyweights, to get there.

With a stacked division everyone has to give respect to the champ.

“There’s a lot of guys in the division for sure, but no one has bridged that gap to contender yet,” he said. “‘Babalu’ was the No. 1 contender but just looking from the outside it doesn’t look like too many people can compete against Chuck right now.”

So where does Jardine fit in to all of this?

“I think that I’m in the top few contenders in the UFC in my division,” he said. “Hopefully I can come out this fight and showcase my skills and prove that.”

Speaking of that fight, Jardine will go toe-to-toe with Nickels a jiu-jitsu purple belt under the Machado lineage. Nickels, who won his last fight on the same card Jardine beat Gouveia, earned his third submission victory that night by catching Wes Combs (Pictures) in a rear-naked choke in the first round.

When asked if he was concerned about Nickels’ submission skills Jardine said in a word: “No.” Jardine believes he has the advantage wherever the fight may go.

“I think I can beat him on the back, on the top, or standing. I would love to keep standing and ideally I would like to win that way,” he said.

Not that this fight will be easy for him but Jardine thinks that this is his fight from the get go.

“I honestly think that I have an advantage everywhere,” he predicted. “All I have to do is go out and perform my best. I’m not overconfident … just very confident.”
<h2>Fight Finder</h2>