San Diego, California gets its latest taste of MMA action when Strikeforce comes rolling in this Saturday night. The main card offers enough action to entertain even the more casual mixed martial arts fans, covering the full gamut with young up-and-comers, seasoned veterans, aspiring champions, and game competitors. Submission specialist Shinya Aoki (19-5) battles the always dangerous Lyle Beerbohm (15-1). Japanese wonder “Crusher” Tatsuya Kawajiri (26-5-2) comes onto US soil with the goal of taking the lightweight title from “El Nino” Gilbert Melendez (18-2). In the main event, “Semtex” Paul Daley (23-10-2) challenges current Strikeforce Welterweight Champion “Diablo” Nick Diaz (23-8) in a five-round battle. Within the chaos going on, former UFC superstar “The Dean of Mean” Keith Jardine (15-9-1) replaces an injured “MAK” Mike Kyle (14-8-1) to take on 205lbs. contender “The Dreamcatcher” Gegard Mousasi (24-3-1). For Mousasi, every win gets him closer to regaining the light heavyweight title. With Jardine on the opposite end of him, Mousasi better tread carefully lest he wants to become a stepping stone to Jardine’s second change at glory.
At First Glance: Though there is a clear division in age between Jardine, 35, and Mousasi, 25, both fighters enter the Strikeforce cage Saturday night with over 50 professional bouts. “The Dean of Mean” enters the Strikeforce cage on a two-fight winning streak in smaller based promotions, snapping an unfortunate five-loss skid he had to endure. Nonetheless, Jardine’s history in combat holds solid having undertaken battles with the likes of “Rampage” Quinton Jackson (29-8) and “The Hammer” Matt Hamill (9-2). With Jardine coming up to bat against a solid opponent in Mousasi, he has much to gain in his return to the big show. Gegard Mousasi comes into his main card match-up on a two-fight win streak as well since losing his Strikeforce light heavyweight title almost a year ago. Thanks to the fighter-exchange agreement Strikeforce had signed with other organizations, Mousasi was able to fight under the DREAM banner, acquiring their light heavyweight championship in the process. With solid competition as well such as “Babalu” Renato Sobral (33-10) and “Jacare” Ronaldo Souza (13-2), Mousasi stands well for himself against his elder. For Jardine, this fight alone can bring him back to the big times. A win for Mousasi will not only add another formidable foe to his resume but the potential to gain the Strikeforce title again may be at his grasp.
In Depth: Both men will have very short time to prepare for one another yet if gameplans cannot come to fruition, their backgrounds and fight IQ alone can serve them well. Gegard Mousasi’s tenure in mixed martial arts has revolved around his boxing. A former Netherlands boxing champion, Mousasi’s hands silenced many who have come before him. “Cyborg” Evangelista Santos (17-14) handed a win to Mousasi when he found himself on the unfortunate end of strikes, losing via TKO. After their original match-up under the Affliction banner which was scrapped, Mousasi finally imposed his will upon Renato Sobral in one minute of the first round to become the Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion via knockout. Even when in a battle where he was controlled in the most part, the heavy hands of Mousasi left “King Mo” Muhammed Lawal (7-1) battered and bruised in his first unsuccessful title defense and first loss in four years. Mousasi has a ground game as well that gives any opponent choosing to roll with him great difficulty. Whenever won by submission a majority of Mousasi’s victories have come within the first round, many within mere minutes. Muay Thai powerhouse Melvin Manhoef (23-8-1) was caught in a Triangle Choke within a minute-and-a-half in his duel with Mousasi. Former UFC 205lbs. fighter “Irish” Jake O’Brien (13-3) was eliminated out of the DREAM Light Heavyweight Grand Prix when Mousasi caught him via Guillotine Choke just 31 seconds into the match. Regardless of where Mousasi sees himself in the fight, he has the potential to end it on a whim if given an inkling of an opportunity to do so.
With Mike Kyle suffering a broken hand, Jardine steps up at the last minute as a main card competitor in this weekend’s Strikeforce event. “The Dean of Mean” has found himself a golden ticket back into the big leagues but at very steep price with Mousasi in his way. Despite just earning a pair of consecutive victories, there is a five loss skid riddled with two devastating knockouts behind it. Win or lose, Jardine lays a threat that if not taken seriously can end the fight in devastating fashion. The Greg Jackson protege is known for his awkward form of striking that while it might be considered reckless, holds technical when done by the man himself. This striking has been troublesome for some fighters to handle with his TKO victory over Forrest Griffin (18-6) and decision victory over “The Iceman” Chuck Liddell (21-8) as his two prestigious victories. Though most of his fights are rarely seen off the feet, Jardine’s wrestling is still an underlying factor that can aid in the undoing of his enemies. Jardine’s takedown defense was able to keep the fight standing against Matt Hamill in their battle at the The Ultimate Fighter 11 Finale. When he met South African Trevor Prangley (23-7-1) at Shark Fights 13, Jardine’s submission abilities were shown when he used Armbar and Heel Hook submission attempts to end the match and escape dire positions. While the younger Mousasi tends to fight with more variety, Jardine’s penchant to strike does not negate his ability to fight off his back. If one should underestimate the other in the slightest, they might be in for a rude welcome of reality once the door shuts.
Wild Card: While it seems that one week to prepare can make the difference between victory and defeat, the reliability of Jardine’s chin is a definite wild card when he steps in against Mousasi. At times it appears that Jardine can take the damage dealt and return it back such as when he traded punch-for-punch with Trevor Prangley and Matt Hamill. On the other hand, his ability to take a punch has failed him such as with two vicious knockouts at the hands of Thiago Silva (16-2) and “Darth” Ryan Bader (12-1).While Jardine’s chin is not as degraded as Chuck Liddell’s, it is uncertain of whether he will be able to span the entire three-round battle with Mousasi. It certainly does not help him that Mousasi bears a calm demeanor when fighting and explodes once he finds himself on offense. While he is capable of bringing challenging and entertaining fights, if “The Dean of Mean” gets caught just one time, his win streak, consciousness, and another shot at glory might disappear in one blow.
The Verdict: Two highly-regarded light heavyweights collide come Saturday night. For the tested career he owns, Gegard Mousasi for being a champion multiple times at age 25 still has a ways to go before being considered to hit his peak. Yet with an amazing ability to knockout and make opponents tap out, Mousasi is a frightening man to make a debut against. While Keith Jardine might never hold a professional MMA title, he will always be well received by fans of the sport for putting up a fight. A victory this weekend would do wonders for his career but once the cage door closes, any immediate aspirations Jardine had entering the cage will likely tumble down at the hands of “The Dreamcatcher.” Mousasi via Knockout, Round 2.