David Barnet's UFC 96 Preview!

For the third consecutive year, the Ultimate Fighting Championship and the Arnold Classic coincide in Columbus, Ohio. UFC 96: Jackson vs. Jardine invades The Nationwide Arena Saturday, March 7, 2009.

Former UFC Light Heavyweight champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson was in championship form last December as he avenged a loss against Wanderlei Silva; knocking him out cold in the first round. This Saturday night he continues his quest to recapture his title. In his way will be the man who stopped Forrest Griffin, who last defeated Jackson, Keith "The Dean of Mean" Jardine.

For the third consecutive year, the Ultimate Fighting Championship and the Arnold Classic coincide in Columbus, Ohio. UFC 96: Jackson vs. Jardine invades The Nationwide Arena this Saturday, March 7, 2009.

The night's main card will also feature a titanic clash between two of the UFC's top heavyweights as Gabriel "Napao" Gonzaga will look to put a halt to the colossal Shane Carwin.

Pete "Drago" Sell, Matt "The Hammer" Hamill and Gray "The Bully" Maynard will all see action on the televised portion of the card.

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Quinton "Rampage" Jackson
Height: 6' 1" (185 cm) Weight: 205 (93 kg)
Record: 29-7-0
VS
Keith "The Dean of Machine" Jardine
Height: 6' 2" (188 cm) Weight: 205 (93 kg)
Record: 14-5-1

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After settling his feud with Wanderlei Silva at UFC 92, it appeared that "Rampage" Jackson would be first in line to dethrone the current UFC Light Heavyweight champion Rashad Evans. Citing not enough time to prepare, Evans declined the rumored title defense. Never a man to pass on a huge opportunity, Evans' teammate Keith Jardine jumped on the chance to face the former champion.

"The Dean of Mean" rebounded from his brutal knockout loss against Wanderlei Silva with a hard fought split decision victory at UFC 89 over Brandon Vera. The former bounty hunter, Jardine possesses a herky-jerky fighting style that confuses many of his opponents. Jardine has found success in the past by utilizing his powerful leg kicks while mixing in punishing punching combinations.

However his chin has been suspect in the past and has failed against bruisers such as Houston Alexander and Wanderlei Silva. This could spell trouble for Jardine as Jackson is as powerful if not more as the aforementioned fighters. After his upset victory over Forrest Griffin at UFC 66, inconsistencies have plagued Jardine. He's currently on a streak of being knocked out and then rebounding with a split decision. His last fight against Vera was a split decision, is a knockout in his immediate future?

Jardine trains with a great camp under Greg Jackson, whose fighters such as GSP, Evans and Nate Marquardt have been on a roll as of late. Jardine and company will undoubtedly come up with a master plan to foil the title hopes for one "Rampage" Jackson, which should include a plethora of leg kicks. Forrest Griffin nearly took off the lead leg of Rampage in their title match. Can Jardine find the same success?

Training in the icy cold weather of the United Kingdom, Quinton Jackson's disdain of training continues to boil and it's nearly time for this volcano to explode. An explosive wrestler with knockout power in both hands, Jackson has knocked people out with knees, fists and slams. Names like Liddell, Arona and Randleman they have all fallen prey to the man known as Rampage. A victory over Jardine will cement his chance for a title shot.

Prediction:

    Rampage is back, baby and if he can survive the leg kicks from Jardine he should find "the button" in round one knocking out "The Dean of Mean."

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Gabriel "Napao" Gonzaga
Height: 6' 1" (185 cm) Weight: 242 (110 kg)
Record: 10-3-0
VS
Shane Carwin
Height: 6' 3" (191 cm) Weight: 262 (119 kg)
Record: 10-0-0

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One minute men might not find success with the ladies, but don't tell that to Shane Carwin. Undefeated at 10-0, Carwin hasn't seen two minutes in a fight since his pro debut back in 2005. A 2-time Division II All American wrestler, Carwin has knocked out his first two UFC opponents in Neil Wain and Christian Wellisch. He'll face his toughest test to date in Gabriel Gonzaga.

Gabriel Gonzaga will always be known for kicking Mirko Cro Cop's head off at UFC 70 before being humbled by Randy Couture thereafter. Gonzaga has impressive Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and is channeling his raw power into a scary stand up game.

Both fighters have huge potential within the heavyweight division. They are both big strong fighters with loads of talent. It'll be interesting how this fight unfolds; Carwin has yet to face the caliber of Gonzaga and Gonzaga has had trouble against strong wrestlers in the past - i.e. Randy Couture. I'll give the nod to Gonzaga based on his past performances, but I wouldn't be surprised if Carwin catches him with knockout punch.

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Pete "Drago" Sell
Height: 5' 11" (180 cm) Weight: 170 (77 kg)
Record: 8-5-0
VS
Matt "The Immortal" Brown
Height: 6' 0" (183 cm) Weight: 170 (77 kg)
Record: 11-7-0

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Pete "Drago" Sell will be in his second match within the welterweight division since his unanimous decision victory over Josh Burkman last October. Moving down a division will make Sell one of the biggest and strongest fighters within the division. Sell has good stand up with a nice ground game. Training BJJ with Matt and Nick Serra on a daily basis will give him confidence on the ground. "Drago" needs to take this fight to the ground. His opponent, Matt Brown, has been submitted five times.

Matt Brown's exciting fighting style has landed him on the main card once again. His conditioning benefited his striking. He is relentless when it comes to punishing his opponents. This could be "fight of the night" and should be a brutal bloody mess.

Chalk up a win for "Drago" he'll be too powerful for Brown to handle and should earn a unanimous decision.

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Matt "The Hammer" Hamill
Height: 6' 1" (185 cm) Weight: 205 (93 kg)
Record: 7-2-0
VS
Mark "The Philippine Wrecking Machine" Munoz
Height: 6' 0" (183 cm) Weight: 205 (93 kg)
Record: 5-0-0

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Matt "The Hammer" Hamill will have the pleasure of welcoming former WEC light heavyweight prospect Mark Munoz to the UFC.

Munoz is a former Division-1A National Championship wrestler from Oklahoma State with an improving Muay Thai game. His last two fights in the WEC ended in the first round with a TKO over Ricardo Barros and a KO over Chuck Grigsby. This 2-time All-American wasn't given a can for his first UFC opponent.

Matt Hamill made a nice name for himself since his stint on The Ultimate Fighter 3. This 3-time NCAA wrestling champion has improved after every fight. Known simply as a wrestler on the reality show, Hamill quickly added a nasty ground and pound with stellar boxing. He'll be fighting in front of his hometown fans and will be extra motivated to come out victorious.

Both are strong wrestlers, but based on experience I'll pick Hamill to win, but don't be surprised if Munoz upsets.

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Gray "The Bully" Maynard
Height: 5' 8" (173 cm) Weight: 155 (70 kg)
Record: 7-0-1
VS
Jim Miller
Height: 5' 8" (173 cm) Weight: 155 (70 kg)
Record: 13-1-0

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Under the tutelage of Randy Couture, Gray Maynard has yet to taste defeat professionally. Couture instilled his work ethic in Maynard, and Maynard outworked all his opponents to stay unbeaten. He has big victories against Rich Clementi and Frankie Edgar. A 3-time All American wrestler, Maynard needs to stop his opponent, Jim Miller, to make waves within the deep lightweight division.

Jim Miller currently holds a brown belt in BJJ. He last fought against Matt Wiman earning a unanimous decision. His strengths are his submissions and cardio. He'll need to be in top shape to deal with the strength and determination of Maynard.

Maynard should out work Miller for the unanimous decision victory unless he gets caught in a triangle choke. It would be nice to see Maynard finish Miller early, but don't bet on it.

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Preliminary Card
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Upcoming Fights
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