The bout comes as a bit of a surprise since many see Jackson as the No. 1 contender for Rashad Evans’ UFC light heavyweight crown.
Affiliated with the Wolfslair Academy, the 30-year-old Jackson (29-7) has posted seven wins in eight fights, a disputed decision loss to Forrest Griffin at UFC 86 the lone blemish. He knocked out longtime nemesis Wanderlei Silva at UFC 92 in December, launching himself back into title contention. Earlier this month, Jackson pleaded guilty to felony and misdemeanor charges associated with a high-speed chase that ended in his arrest in July; the plea deal will likely allow him to avoid jail time.
Jardine (14-4-1), based out of Jackson’s Submission Fighting in Albuquerque, N.M., last fought at UFC 89 in October, when he earned a split decision against Brandon Vera. He also holds victories against former UFC light heavyweight champions Griffin and Chuck Liddell. The 33-year-old former bounty hunter staked his claim in the 205-pound division with an unorthodox style and vicious leg and body kicks.
UFC 96 will also feature a bout pairing one-time heavyweight title challenger Gabriel Gonzaga with unbeaten Shane Carwin and a welterweight match pitting Dustin Hazelett against American Top Team’s Ben Saunders.
Saturday, March 7
Quinton Jackson vs. Keith Jardine
Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Shane Carwin
Dustin Hazelett vs. Ben Saunders
Matt Hamill vs. Mark Munoz
Gray Maynard vs. Jim Miller
Kendall Grove vs. Jason Day
Brandon Vera vs. Michael Patt
Pete Sell vs. Matt Brown
Aaron Riley vs. Shane Nelson