23-year-old Jon Jones, who headlines Sunday’s UFC event, has amassed an impressive 10-1 record in his two-and-a-half-year MMA career. Jones’ only loss came way of a disqualification due to an illegal strike in his bout with Matt Hamill. Prior to the offending blow, Jones was clearly dominating Hamill. If it weren’t for the prohibited downward elbow strikes late in the fight, Jones would have likely come away with the “W."
It’s clear that “Bones” Jones has yet to face an opponent that has an answer for his unique and dynamic fighting style, which many have compared to current UFC middleweight champ Anderson Silva.
Jones’ next opponent will be 39-year-old Vladimir “The Janitor” Matyushenko, who’s been involved with the sport since 1997. The Belarusian fought for the light heavyweight title against Tito Ortiz at UFC 33 and he’s defeated some very capable fighters including Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
Despite being nearly 40 years old, Matyushenko is on a three-fight win streak, including two in the UFC. He’s only lost four total fights in a 28-fight career. Matyushenko believes his clash against Jones will be the toughest of his long career.
“Any fight is my toughest fight,” Matyushenko states. “If you think it’s going to be easy, you’ll pay dearly. But (Jones) is young, He’s strong. I have fought tough opponents back in the day. But that was back in the day. Now is a different time. I think he’s a pretty tough opponent. Between his age, time in the cage, athletic ability and the fact that he’s hyped up and all the media and stuff like that. It makes for a tough fight dealing with all of those things.”
Although Jones is a significant favorite to beat the elder Matyushenko, he realizes how dangerous the veteran is and refuses to overlook a fight that many felt was a lateral move as compared to his last win against Brandon Vera.
"I think he’s very underrated in this fight," Jones said. "You know, I've watched Vladimir's fights, pretty much all of them, and I watched them over and over again. I've watched him do some pretty extraordinary things and beat some pretty good fighters and just be a dominant grinder.”
The fight is critical for both Jones and Matyushenko who are gunning for title runs in the light heavyweight division. If Jones loses the bout, he’ll likely lose the “Next Big Thing” moniker delaying a potential title bout matchup, whereas a loss for Matyushenko will surely end any chance for him to wear a UFC strap around his waist before he retires.
A Big 12 wrestling standout on a three-fight win streak in the UFC, Munoz will face his stiffest competition to date Sunday. Okami is a longtime UFC vet with an 8-2 record.
Howard, 4-0 in the UFC, will attempt to remain undefeated against a very well-rounded Ellenberger.
Lightweight notable Gomi will try to get his first win in the UFC against Griffin, who’s coming off of a loss of his own at UFC 115. Both fighters need to make a statement in their bout in order to remain relevant in the division.
UFC on Versus 2 will take place at the San Diego Sports Arena in San Diego on August 1 with the main-card bouts broadcasting on Versus.
UFC on Versus 2
Jon Jones vs. Vladimir Matyushenko
Mark Munoz vs. Yushin Okami
Jake Ellenberger vs. John Howard
Takanori Gomi vs. Tyson Griffin
Paul Kelly vs. Jacob Volkmann
DaMarques Johnson vs. Matthew Riddle
James Irvin vs. Igor Pokrajac
Mike Massenzio vs. Brian Stann
Darren Elkins vs. Charles Oliveira
Rob Kimmons vs. Steve Steinbeiss