Not Enough? Judges Choose Bonnar Over Jardine

By Josh Gross Apr 7, 2006
As the third and final round came to a close for Thursday evening's Ultimate Fight Night main event on Spike TV, Stephan Bonnar (Pictures) and Keith Jardine (Pictures) had pretty firm opinions as to the outcome of their light heavyweight clash.

Apparently, so did three Nevada State Athletic Commission-appointed judges, who each rendered a somewhat surprising score (29-28) in favor of Bonnar.

“I thought I did the most damage and I thought I controlled the pace of the fight,” a disappointed Jardine (10-2-1) told “I thought I did what I needed to win.”

Many fans inside The Joint at Las Vegas’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino sided with the losing Albuquerque-based mixed martial artist and booed as the decision was rendered.

“He did perfect,” said Greg Jackson, Jardine’s trainer and the man in charge of his corner Thursday. “He attacked the legs in that wide stance. He attacked the head. The only thing he didn’t do that I would have liked him to do is get a takedown, but he was trying to knee so bad so that’s how that happened.”

Jackson, however, could not have liked that his fighter was dropped twice and nearly gave up his neck — things Bonnar supporters will point to as discussion of the outcome continues in the days ahead.

“I definitely felt more comfortable about getting the decision in [this] fight than the Forrest Griffin (Pictures) fight,” said Bonnar, now 9-2-0, via telephone from a local Las Vegas hospital.

After a slow early pace, Jardine picked it up midway through round one. He peppered Bonnar’s lead leg with stinging low kicks and his hands found the proper range as the period moved towards conclusion.

“They do a lot of damage,” Jardine said of the low kicks. “He switched up his stance on me because they were hurting and I was just controlling the fight.”

Bonnar, who throughout the fight threw whirling kicks and looping punches, had another answer for moving between regular and goofy foot stances: it was part of his original game plan.

“I actually switched my stance so he thought my leg was bothering me,” said Bonnar, who in preparing for the fight noticed the success Mike Whitehead (Pictures) had throwing his left leg at Jardine.

The thudding shots to Bonnar’s left thigh, which looked painful on television, didn’t stop him from nearly ending the fight in the second round by rear-naked choke. However, without control, Bonnar couldn’t secure the submission and Jardine rolled out before returning to his feet.

The sequence, one of the few times this bout went to the floor, was enough to give Bonnar a relatively slow middle round.

Between periods Jardine’s corner indicated that the man on the opposite side of the Octagon was “going to come out desperate.”

Bonnar did — and he almost ended the fight.

After more chopping kicks slammed into his thigh, Bonnar connected with a straight right that put Jardine to the canvas for the second time.

“It was a good punch but it was slippery there as well,” Jardine said. “It was a very slippery mat; I had trouble keeping my feet under me. But I’m not using that as an excuse. He just hurt me for a second.”

Bonnar pounced but the underdog would not go away. Quickly Jardine returned to his feet and for the final 90 seconds “The Dean of Mean” stalked around the cage, connecting with a beautiful kick to the left side of Bonnar’s head.

The closing sequence should have been enough for the judges to look past Bonnar’s successes. As the bell sounded and he walked back to his corner, Jardine was told the fight was his. “I was pretty confident,” he said.

But crazy things happen when fighters leave their work in other peoples’ hands.

“I know I don’t have a big name like Stephan does,” Jardine said. “I guess I got to work my way up the hard way.”

“My hat’s off to Keith,” said the victorious light heavyweight. “He fought a great fight and he’s a tough guy. Taking nothing away from him.”

If Rashad Evans (Pictures) hopes to be a factor in the UFC’s light heavyweight division he better figure out a way to strike from the guard or pass to a better position.

Against Sam Hoger (Pictures), a scrappy though not terribly gifted fighter, Evans can get away with scoring takedowns and stalling his way to a decision. But when it comes time to fight top-level opposition, an effort similar to the one he delivered tonight would result in the first loss of his career.

Evans did enough to carry a split decision over Hoger (30-27, 29-28, 28-29), but it wasn't a pretty effort. He never came close to finishing the fight, but the outcome is hard to argue.

At the end of the second Hoger locked in a Kimura from the guard and had the bell not saved him, Evans would have been in a rough patch. As it was, the fight appeared to be even heading into the third.

Hoger scored first, plastering a high kick that immediately closed Evans’ right eye. The former Michigan State wrestler responded with yet another takedown — something Hoger almost conceded as the fight wore on. And in the end, the ability to put the fight where he wanted when he wanted was the difference.

Fighting for the first time since November’s The Ultimate Fighter 2 finale, welterweight winner Joe Stevenson (Pictures) was humbled over three rounds by Josh Neer (Pictures) en route to a unanimous decision loss.

Besides a deep opening round kneebar by Stevenson, which Neer said injured his leg and impacted the way he fought the remaining two rounds, the favorite offered little in the way of effective offense.

Against the taller Neer, a young but veteran fighter who after three fights finally appears comfortable in the UFC, it didn’t take long for Stevenson’s usually non-stop motor to slow to a crawl. Soon the underdog from Iowa began to tee off on his shorter foe.

At the start of round three, Neer countered a lumbering double-leg attempt with a flying knee. He dove in and delivered several heavy elbows, the sort he’d landed throughout the fight.

Though Stevenson, who planned on moving down to lightweight regardless of tonight’s outcome, managed to reverse position and fight from the top with a minute and a half to go, it wasn’t nearly enough to dissuade each judge from awarding Neer the fight two rounds to one.

Chris Leben (Pictures) raised his Octagon record to 5-0 Thursday, scoring a lopsided decision over UFC rookie Luigi Fioravanti.

During their 15 minutes in front of the Las Vegas crowd neither Leben, now 15-1-0, nor Fioravanti, who tasted defeat for the first time in seven fights, were terribly impressive. Yet thanks in large measure to a significant edge in experience, Leben put in a workmanlike three rounds to sweep the fight on each judge’s card.

Messrs. Thacker, Cote, Dewees, Rivera and now Fioravanti have been unable to push Leben. It’s time an opponent to stand in front of the 26-year-old middleweight that’s capable of giving him a fight. Could Mike Swick (Pictures) fit the bill? Or perhaps one of the UFC’s veteran 185-pounders? Perhaps we’ll soon find out.

In the evening’s five dark bouts:

Luke Cummo won a unanimous decision over Jason von Flue (Pictures).

Jon Fitch (Pictures) dominated Josh Burkman (Pictures) before submitting him via rear-naked choke in round two.

Dan Christison (Pictures) surprised many in catching Brad Imes (Pictures) via armbar midway through the third period.

Josh Koscheck (Pictures) choked Ansar Chalangov during the opening round.

And Chael Sonnen (Pictures) battered Trevor Prangley (Pictures) for three rounds to win a unanimous decision.
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