Jon Jones Vs Vladimir Matyushenko
The light-heavyweight division’s brightest young star Jon Jones steps into the octagon on Sunday night against wily Russian veteran Vladimir Matyushenko.
It’s a clear case of youth vs experience here, and though it’s not the glamorous fight Jones fans would have been hoping for, it’s still a solid test against a man with just four losses in his 28 fight career.
Matyushenko’s game is heavily based around his wrestling and he’s often known for using it to play the role of ‘spoiler’, stifling his opponents offense in the clinch and on the mat. It’s not always fun to watch, but it has proven effective, and with Jones still being relatively untested off his back the Russian may have a route to victory.
Meanwhile Jones style is far more eye-catching, with a dizzying array of striking techniques from standard kicks and punches to more exotic spinning backfists, sidekicks and unique variations that keeps his opponents on their toes. His abnormally long limbs, which will afford him the luxury of a 10″ reach advantage ensure that he will be a major threat in the stand-up battle.
Don’t underestimate Jones wrestling either though. He has an unorthadox style that focuses heavily on throws from the clinch, and mixes traditional greco-roman with judo influenced footsweeps which seems perfectly suited to MMA and is very difficult to train for.
It’s hard to see past Jones here. He’s got a definitive striking advantage, and I think his throws from the clinch will get him out of jail if Matyushenko attempts to stifle his offense. He’s also still a work in progress and improving with every fight so I think he’ll get the finish inside the distance.
Jon Jones to win by TKO in Rd2
Yushin Okami Vs Mark Munoz
In the build-up to this fight Dana White has been talking up Yushin Okami’s chances of a title shot, and rightly so considering he has just two loses in ten octagon appearances, as well as being the last man to defeat current champion Anderson Silva.
Munoz has also been making solid progress in the 185lb weight-class, notching up three consecutive victories and showing some vicious ground and pound along the way. His other main attributes are his strength and his wrestling as well as a good chin. He’s also now part of the BlackHouse stable that includes the likes of Anderson Silva who has worked with him on his developing striking game.
Okami is the more complete fighter however – also strong and possessing good wrestling, but in addition also possessing solid striking which appears to have improved further since a somewhat humbling defeat to Chael Sonnen last year. He’s certainly more technical than Munoz who tends to just look for one devastating blow, and he’s also light on his feet which should be advantageous here.
Munoz is a gamer and can’t be discounted but I think Okami is the more consistent fighter of the two, and I believe he can match his opponents wrestling while showing more finesse and technique over three rounds to claim a decision victory.
Yushin Okami to win by decision.
John Howard Vs Jake Ellenberger
John Howard has certainly earned his spot on the main card with four consecutive victories in the UFC prelims, two of them by knockout.
His opponent Jake Ellenberger hasn’t fared quite so well on paper, with a record of 1-1 in the octagon, but with his loss being to Carlos Condit by split decision in a a highly competitive fight he shouldn’t be judged to harshly for that.
It should be pointed out that despite some impressive endings to fights Howard’s UFC performances haven’t been overly impressive so far and he’s perhaps been a little lucky at times to emerge victorious. What he has displayed however is good athleticism, decent boxing and a nice line in throws at his disposal, along with a slightly underrated BJJ game.
Ellenberger meanwhile is a strong wrestler and backs that up with genuine punching power and a solid chin, making him a tough opponent for anyone at 170lbs. He showed against Condit that he can be susceptible to submission attempts though, and that’s something Howard may look to exploit.
Howard’s record flatters him a little up to this point and I believe Ellenberger will offer a clear wrestling advantage and heavier hands to claim a late stoppage.
Jake Ellenberger to win by TKO in Rd3
Tyson Griffin Vs Takanori Gomi
Tyson Griffin had been looking in impressive form up until he met rising lightweight talent Evan Dunham earlier in the year and suffered a decision loss.
Now he takes on Takanori Gomi who was once a darling of the 155lb weight class during the PRIDE era, but looked a shadow of his former self in a disappointing UFC debut against Kenny Florian in March.
Despite his recent loss Griffin remains a quality fighter in the division with dominant wrestling and excellent cardio which enables him to push a relentless pace that many struggle to keep up with. On top of that recently he’s displayed improved striking, including some particularly nasty leg kicks. He does however have a tendency to become overly focused on just his stand-up which can be to his detriment.
Gomi brings a blend of boxing and wrestling to the cage, and in his heyday he was one of the heaviest hitters the division has ever seen. At that time it was enough to see him put together a string of victories, but the sport has moved on and yet Gomi’s skill-set remains much the same. Where once he was dangerous he’s now one-dimensional and it’s shown in his patchy record of 2-3 in recent years.
The UFC have done no favors to Gomi by pitting him against Griffin as he looks to prove he’s still got what it takes. I expect Griffin to make this a very uncomfortable night for him by pushing the pace throughout and really testing his cardio. Griffin’s leg kicks from out of the range of Gomi’s power shots should pay dividends, and he was the superior wrestling to turn to if he needs a plan B.
Tyson Griffin to win by decision.
Prelims: (Predicted winners marked in bold)
DaMarques Johnson Vs Matthew Riddle
James Irvin Vs Igor Pokrajac
Paul Kelly Vs Jacob Volkmann
Brian Stann Vs Mike Mazzenzio
Rob Kimmons Vs Steve Steinbass
Darren Elkins Vs Charles Oliveira