Jardine to get a title shot. Wait, what?

December, 2, 2011
12/02/11
2:47
PM ET
Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall
ESPN.com
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Keith JardineMark Rebilas for ESPN.comKeith Jardine doesn't strike anyone as title material at this point in his career.
Somewhere between the process of reinvention, the many eulogies being read over his relevancy, and being cut from the UFC, Keith Jardine must have rubbed a talisman. Not only does he get a short notice fight against heavily favored Gegard Mousasi in Strikeforce (lucky timing) and end up in a fortunate draw (lucky point deduction), but now he’s getting a title shot against Luke Rockhold for the middleweight strap (lucky circumstances) in his middleweight debut.

So much for the pretending to know what’s going on in the Strikeforce war room.

As MMAFighting.com first reported, the “Dean of Mean” will fight Rockhold for the 185-pound strap on Jan. 7 instead of his Greg Jackson teammate, Tim Kennedy, who had to refuse the bout due to an undisclosed injury. Injuries happen, but this is a confusing choice. Somewhere, former champion Ronaldo Souza is looking up the Portuguese to English translation of “meritocracy.” He and Rockhold engaged in a back-and-forth war back in September that had rematch written all over it. Only hitch in the idea was Kennedy, who had dutifully bided his time for a title shot while walking through Melvin Manhoef and Robbie Lawler to get it.

Yet with Kennedy hurt, Strikeforce dialed Jardine. Maybe they didn’t have long distance on their phone. Not to take anything away from Jardine’s star power and his recent swing of wins (and draws) -- he’s 2-1-1 since being cut from the UFC -- but somebody’s getting jobbed. Maybe Paul Daley would have been up for the task? Not having to cut to 170 pounds might have sounded like sweet music to him, especially with the holidays and all that figgy pudding.

Let’s hope it’s more complicated than we know. Maybe Souza was offered but couldn’t accept the fight for his own set of reasons (such as five week’s notice), though he recently tweeted something that tests such a theory (“Still waiting on Strikeforce to decide when I fight again, they always keep me on the side waiting for too long”).

So how did Jardine, who lost five in a row between the spring of 2009 through the fall of 2010, hurdle “Jacare” for the shot?

Could be anything.
[+] EnlargeRonaldo Souza
Ross Dettman for ESPN.comWas Ronaldo Souza, right, not available for a rematch with Luke Rockhold?

Could be that there’s no depth in the middleweight ranks and Jardine at least is a name, reinvented as a middleweight. Could be that the idea is to bring Rockhold along slowly. Could be that Kennedy suggested to Scott Coker that Jardine stand in for him. Could be that Strikeforce had an unyielding date locked down at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino that only Jardine was open for on that notice. If that’s the case, it would seem like poor planning, even if the future of Strikeforce is unfurling in a corner of Zuffa’s offices at warp speeds.

It could be that Souza didn’t want to play back five rounds of hell with Rockhold, or vice-versa, or that somebody threw a dart at the wall and hit Jardine’s grazing beard. Who knows.

But it looks funny. It’s a fight that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to the usual title defense/challenger model in MMA. In boxing, maybe. But not in MMA. Either way, Jardine is lucky enough to be at the point -- and the point -- of contention. And, realistically, a win in January makes a strange-looking situation in early December look ... less strange.

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