The main event of the evening for UFC on Versus: Jones vs. Matyushenko on August 1, 2010 in San Diego will be an old guard vs. new guard affair between the functionally undefeated light heavyweight monster “Bones” Jon Jones (10-1) and dark ages UFC title challenger “The Janitor” Vladimir Matyushenko. The first of these two men is well known even to the casual fan for his blistering athleticism, brutal wrestling, and abusive use of high risk spinning strikes, and has stopped all but two of his opponents with notable stoppages of “Irish” Jake O’Brien (13-3) and “The Truth” Brandon Vera (11-5). Jones also has a controversial disqualification loss to “The Hammer” Matt Hamill (8-2) who he dominated with a brutal wrestling and ground-n-pound assault that lasted over two minutes before the referee called the fight with no warning due to 12-6 elbows that were thrown well after most observers agree the believe the fight should have been stopped and drew criticism even from Hamill. The second man, Vladimir, is a world class Belarusian wrestler who amassed a 10-1 record of his own before facing then UFC light heavyweight champion “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Tito Ortiz (15-7-1) in what is now a fight the UFC would like everyone to forget and has since become the only IFL light heavyweight champ and quietly built a 4-1 UFC record since the debacle. This is another bizarre Twilight Zone bout on the card where one fighter is facing a distorted version of himself. The difference here is that Mark Munoz (6-1) is fighting a more experienced version of himself in “Thunder” Yushin Okami (24-5), thus the less experienced man is facing his future, and Jones is facing the flip side of his own coin in Vladimir, thus we have an aggressive, evolved Greco-roman wrestler facing the old world Greco-roman prototype built around turning every fight into a wrestling match.
At First Glance: When you first hear about this bout, you immediately turn to the raw stats. Vladimir has only managed to finish one opponent in his UFC career and that was almost eight years ago. Since his return to the promotion in September of 2009, he has faced untested and somewhat questionable talent and still failed to deliver a win within the time limit. Jones on the other hand has had a steady diet of upper level gate keepers since his domination of “The American Psycho” Stephan Bonnar (12-7) in January 2009 and has finished or at least dominated the majority of his opponents in impressive fashion. While Matyushenko is certainly a legitimate threat to any fighter in the division, a quick look at the two men’s records and highlight reels appears to show Vladimir as being out of his depth here.
Inside and Out: There is no nickname in mixed martial arts more appropriate than “The Janitor” in my humble opinion. Vladimir is like a gatekeeper to the stars, perfect for sweeping the trash out of the UFC’s light heavyweight division. Jones, however, is anything but trash. Vladimir’s game relies manly on sucking fighters into protracted wrestling matches that slow the fight to a snails pace. Unfortunately for him, there is no way he will slow Jones’ pace enough to prevent the vicious young fighter from dominating this fight. Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of “Bones” game is his ability to seamlessly integrate the different aspects of his fighting into one cohesive work. He never breaks or engages a clinch without landing several blows on the way in or out, he uses the Thai dump and judo techniques to take instant advantage of take down opportunities in the clinch instead of switching to “wrestling mode” like so many other fighters, and he uses this to keep the pace of the fight spiraling out of his opponents ability to control. “The Janitor” survives on controlling the pace of the fight and controlling Jones’ pace is like attempting to control a force of nature.
The Wild Card: The intangible aspect of this fight is, as it often is in bouts between the old dogs and the young bulls, is experience. While Jones has faced strong competition in the UFC, all of his opponents have been men with fights totaling less than Vladimir’s win column. In fact, with the exception of Stephan Bonnar, “The Janitor” has more than twice as many wins as any of Jones’ opponents has fights. Over his thirteen year career, Matyushenko has certainly picked up quite a few tricks that Jones hasn’t seen. If Vladimir can use that bag of tricks to capitalize on a rookie mistake by Jones, he may be able to drag “Bones” into the black hole that is his wrestling game, making the pace slower and slower until it seems to stop completely and results in a Matyushenko decision win.
The Verdict: The final word on this fight is a bad night for Vladimir. He’s a game fighter who easily dominated lesser competition in the IFL and may very well surprise Jones with a little of the old age and treachery, but he is the old model. Jones is a bigger, younger, newer, more well rounded version of Matyushenko with his offense stuck in overdrive and he will easily out pace “The Janitor” in route to another impressive victory. Look for the beginning of the end to come early in the second with the killing blow landing before the second bell. Jones by TKO in the late 2nd.