PORTLAND, Ore. – Keith Jardine's opinion of Thiago Silva's abilities as a fighter rose dramatically in the last seven months, though Silva has yet to walk in the cage since losing to Lyoto Machida at UFC 94 on Jan. 31.
But after he witnessed what Machida did to his close buddy, Rashad Evans, when they fought for the Ultimate Fighting Championship's light heavyweight title at UFC 98, Jardine reconsidered his once-harsh stance on Silva.
"I thought pretty badly of him after that Machida fight," Jardine said of Silva. "I thought he didn't do well at all. But look at what Machida's done. It's now hard to put a lot of stock in that (Machida-Silva) fight at all because of what Machida's done. He's just tearing everybody up."
Silva was tearing everyone up prior to fighting Machida and was on a fast track to elite status in the UFC's deepest division when he was pulverized by Machida. Silva insists he has learned from that bout, and he'll have an opportunity to show Jardine up close just how much he's improved when they meet on Saturday in the co-main event of UFC 102 at the Rose Garden.
Machida is notorious for being perhaps the most difficult fighter to prepare for in mixed martial arts. His elusive style and his karate base have befuddled some of the sport's sharpest men.
The good news for Silva is that Machida is in the rearview mirror now.
The bad news is that Jardine may be the second-most difficult fighter to prepare to face. His style is also vastly different from the norm. He punches and kicks from odd angles and at unexpected times. His stance is different than most and he moves almost like a lobster.
"He's very unorthodox," Silva said, rolling his eyes. "You're never sure what he might do next. That makes him difficult."
Life was difficult for Silva in the days and weeks after his loss to Machida. Heading into the Machida fight, Silva was 13-0 and full of bravado, known as much for his sneer and his trademark throat slash as he was for any specific move.
Machida, though, had his way with him and stopped him with a second left in the first round.
Coming out of the bout, Silva was a very different man.
"You question a lot of things," he said. "It wasn't supposed to be that way. A lot of thoughts go through your mind. When you're not used to losing and you lose all of a sudden, it makes for a very difficult time. It was a hard spot in my life."
He insists he's learned from the loss and is ready to get back to his winning ways.
Silva carries a last name that connotes royalty in MMA. Anderson Silva is the UFC's middleweight champion and is widely regarded as the world's best fighter. Wanderlei Silva was the PRIDE 205-pound champion and is one of the sport's most popular stars. Thiago Silva, who has no relation to either Anderson or Wanderlei, has a simple approach to help him join his namesakes.
"Fight and win," he said, simply. "Beat great opponents and always be there."
In Jardine, he's fighting a man with wins over a pair of ex-light heavyweight champions, Forrest Griffin and Chuck Liddell, and someone who came within seconds of knocking off a third, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson.
Beating Jardine would make a statement for Silva in a fight that UFC president Dana White concedes will carry a lot of weight in the division. Silva is happy to hear that.
"You gain more from beating the top guys, and Jardine is definitely one of the top guys," Silva said. "He's a great fighter and that's what I need to see."