Jardine excited again

JOSE RODRIGUEZ

, Last Updated: 9:03 AM ET

CALGARY -- On paper, the main event of tonight's UFC 76 looks like a gimme.

The most recognizable mug in mixed-martial arts, Chuck 'The Iceman' Liddell, is expected to bulldoze through Keith 'Dean of Mean' Jardine before the first bead of sweat carves a path on his brow.

But, as both fighters can attest, in the land of the five-ounce gloves, winners and losers can be decided in a split second.

Liddell is coming off a first round knockout at the fists of Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson that cost him the light-heavyweight title.

Jardine suffered a similar loss the same night to upstart power puncher Houston Alexander.

"That's the beauty of this sport, with those little gloves, anything can happen," says Jardine, who is a heavy underdog for tonight's UFC 76 card in Anaheim, Calif.

"I lost focus for a second, I got caught and that's the last thing I remember."

But The Ultimate Fighter 2 alumnus who boasts a 12-3 record said it didn't take long for him to get over the May loss.

"I took three days off and then I came back to help Rashad (Evans) prepare for his fight and I've been training ever since," says the six-foot-two New Mexico native.

Following the loss, his second in the UFC, Jardine says he was uncertain of his future.

"I didn't know what was going to happen," he says.

"They could put me on the undercard, I didn't know."

Jardine was so convinced the loss had removed him from big-fight contention, that he didn't believe he was being offered a main event spot against Liddell.

"When I got the call, I thought, this is a joke," says Jardine.

But that call, and the heavy thumping by Alexander, has reignited the 205-pounders desire to fight.

"I'm just excited. Obviously in that last fight I lost a little bit of that excitement. It was like just going to work," he says.

"Now I'm excited again. This is a great opportunity and Liddell was a great champion.

"I'm itching to get back to the Octagon."

FIGHT NOTES: MAURICIO 'SHOGUN' RUA WILL MAKE HIS UFC DEBUT TONIGHT AGAINST FAN FAVOURITE FORREST GRIFFIN. RUA, WHO IS RANKED BY MANY MMA EXPERTS AS THE BEST LIGHT-HEAVYWEIGHT IN THE WORLD SAYS HE WON'T TAKE GRIFFIN LIGHTLY AND CONSIDERS THE GEORGIA NATIVE ONE OF THE TOP FIGHTERS IN THE UFC.

- With heavy favourites in two of the three main cards at UFC 76, the John Fitch/Diego Sanchez fight may be the scrap of the night. Fitch is undefeated in 13 and Sanchez has lost but once in his last 18.

- Rumour says the rematch between former UFC light-heavyweight champ Tito Ortiz and Rashad Evans will take place during UFC 78 in New Jersey. The card is slated for Nov. 17.


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