Matyushenko looks to upset UFC rising star Jon Jones

The Canadian Press

7/21/2010 6:39:38 PM

The writing would seem on the wall for veteran Vladimir (The Janitor) Matyushenko in his Aug. 1 bout with UFC rising star Jon (Bones) Jones.

A Internet poll showed 92 per cent of voters believe Jones will win the televised "UFC Live" main event at the San Diego Sports Arena. Nearby, a story on the website is titled "10 Reasons Why Jon Jones is the Future of MMA."

Some bookies have the 23-year-old Jones as a 7-1 favourite.

Matyushenko, 39, realizes the challenge ahead, but has no plans to lie down in the cage.

His goal is to upset the odds and derail the Jones bandwagon.

"Young, athletic, fairly dangerous, long reach, and eager to get to the top," is Matyushenko's take on Jones. "So my job is to stop it."

The swath of damage left in Jones' recent UFC trail suggests that won't be easy.

The six-foot-four Jones smashed Brandon (The Truth) Vera's face with an elbow en route to a first-round win last time out. And while Jones lost by disqualification (for an illegal elbow) to Matt (The Hammer) Hamill before that, it was Hamill who suffered a shoulder injury in being taken down by the former junior college wrestling champion.

Jones (10-1) is keeping surgeons busy.

Long and lean, Jones is an athletic specimen with a huge wingspan which he uses to reach into an unorthodox box of tricks.

Count Matyushenko in the Jones fan club.

"Actually I like his style and the way he fights," he said of the young gun, who is being groomed for UFC stardom.

Jones, meanwhile, calls the six-foot Matyushenko a "fun opponent."

"He has a different style, looping punches and a strong wrestling base. . . . It's going to be a really good test for me to step my game up and look out for different threats.

"I'm excited about the opportunity to fight a veteran. He's not the most athletic guy, but he definitely knows how to win a fight with a record of 24-4. I'm not taking him lightly and I'm just looking to a new challenge."

Matyushenko remembers his own successes in his early 20s.

"I was beating people up left and right in wrestling. I mean it's a good age."

But Matyushenko, a former accomplished amateur wrestler from Belarus whose pro MMA career dates back to 1997, sees his experience — from proper training to decision-making in the cage — as a major plus.

And he points to Fabricio Werdum's recent upset win over heavyweight star Fedor Emelianenko in Strikeforce as proof that "anything can happen" in MMA.

"I plan is to surprise him with my striking," Matyushenko said. "I don't mind going on the ground or standing up. I just have to keep pressure (on him) and I can't stand in front of him like his other opponents did and just wait until he kicks you or punches you or elbows or knees. (you). I have to constantly move and start the fight on my own terms."

Jones doesn't seem all that concerned.

"He's a mixed martial artist so I'm sure he's always looking to improve," he said of Matyushenko. "But studying his fights, I'm realizing that he's not going to get any faster than he's ever been and he's been fighting for so long, he's got a lot of tendencies that he's not going to break."

Jones says Matyushenko faces a far harder task in trying to pin him down.

"Every fight's been completely different," Jones said of his resume. "So he has a lot to study. I really don't think I showed too many tendencies."

Still, Jones knows Matyushenko bears watching.

"Vladimir has nothing to lose and those are the most dangerous opponents," he said.

Matyushenko has some serious credentials of his own but flew under the radar for a while as fight promoters collapsed around him.

A former IFL champion, the only people to have beat him are Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (Matyushenko had a torn groin muscle at the time), Tito (The Huntington Beach Bad Boy) Ortiz, Andrei Arlovski, and Vernon White.

Matyushenko, who also holds wins over White and Nogueira, has been training for this fight at his VMAT gym in El Segundo, Calif., with a pair of UFC heavyweights in Dutch kickboxer Antoni Hardonk and Swiss stringbean Stefan Struve.

He has no concerns — and no qualms about the what lies ahead.

Matyushenko, after all, is a survivor. He had just $100 in his pocket in 1994 when — competing at a meet in New York — he decided to look for a better life in the U.S.

His first MMA experience was the eight-man Battle in the Bayou tournament in Baton Rouge. He won three fights in a total of 11 minutes 10 seconds.

There were no rules, no weight limits and head-butts were allowed.

"It's going to be a tough fight. but fighting's supposed to be tough," Matyushenko said of Jones with a laugh. "So why not?"