UFC on Versus: Jones vs. Matyushenko will take place August 1, 2010 at the San Diego Sports Arena in San Diego, CA. In addition to quality bouts between “The Fireball Kid” Takanori Gomi (27-8) and “Daddy” Joe Stevenson (31-10) and “Bones” Jon Jones (10-1) and “The Janitor” Vladimir Matyushenko (24-4), the UFC has given us an excellent welterweight pairing between up and coming bruiser “Doomsday” John Howard (14-4) and NCAA wrestling coach Jake Ellenberger (21-5). Howard enters UFC on Versus on the heels of a one punch KO of “Ninja” Daniel Roberts (10-1) with a perfect 4-0 record with the promotion. His opponent brings a 1-1 UFC record to the cage following a second round stoppage of Mike Pyle (19-6-1). This fight is interesting because it is a step beyond a classical striker vs. grappler pairing; these two men are complete athletic opposites. On one side is Ellenberger, a wrestler turned MMA fighter who battled his way into the UFC over the course of four and a half years and 24 fights and went straight to the deep end of the talent pool against “Natural Born Killer” Carlos Condit (25-5). On the other when have “Doomsday”, a solid submission guy with a brutal Thai-boxing game who made the UFC in just over three years at a much more casual pace, fighting only 14 times and has struggled to get a fight against a true competitor despite notching off four wins in a row with a Fight of the Night bonus on just his second appearance. This is definitely a much more even fight than it looks like on paper and the reward for the winner: a match against “Rumble” Anthony Johnson (8-3) or a member of the AKA roadblock trio.
At First Glance: This match is a blast from the dark ages of MMA. Not so far back as the style vs. style days but certainly it is a bout from the days where fighters had a primary style that was supplemented by a basic knowledge of another. Fighters who were kick boxers with a blue or purple belt level of jiu-jitsu, like Howard, or were pure wrestlers that had some basic boxing skills like Ellenberger. This is a fight for the right to face the bottom tier of the welterweight elite. On paper, it looks like an easy highlight reel for Howard, who has been far more successful in the UFC, but looks can be deceiving. When the one compares the talent levels of the UFC fighters these two have faced, the bout shows itself to be a solid match-up between two young guns looking to make their make in the UFC.
Inside and Out: This fight is a real toss up. On one hand we have Jon Howard who is dangerous with his ground work and deadly with his hands, and on the other we have the classical antithesis to a fighter of that template, Jake Ellenberger, a solid NCAA Division II wrestler. The toss up comes in the fact that Ellenberger has struggled in the past with fighters who have solid bottom games. His wrestling is solid, but his submission defense is lacking, often leading to him being swept or threatened with chains of submissions. He has more than strong enough wrestling to put “Doomsday” on his back at will and the chin to survive his power, but his suspect mat control could be a serious problem when he seeks to finish the fight by ground and pound.
The Wild Card: The biggest question mark in this fight comes down to Howard’s all but forgotten submission game. In his early career, he submitted six of the seven fighters he defeated with a variety of holds ranging for arm bars to heel hooks. The only person to finish Ellenberger did so by submission and the majority of his decision losses were brought on by fighters either using submission attempts to sweep and control Ellenberger after he got them to the mat or simply out wrestling him. With a fighter like Howard who has spent the past three years showing the world how powerful his right hand is, it’s doubtful Ellenberger has spent significant time training his submission defense.
The Verdict: This fight comes down to Ellenberger’s training. If he has work diligently on his submission defense, or simply stalls with lay-n-pray, he will carry home a decision win by way of top control. If he hasn’t, look for John Howard to either sweep him and finish with the TKO or snatch an armbar from his back as Ellenberger unloads the ground-n-pound from top guard. While this fight between to welterweight youngsters could easily go either way, my money is on Howard catching an arm late in the first. Howard by Armbar in the First.