SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Jon Jones mopped up Vladimir “The Janitor” Matyushenko just eight ticks shy of two minutes at the San Diego Sports for UFC on Versus II.
Everyone gave Matyushenko a snowball’s chance in Las Vegas and expected “Bones” to perform in dominating fashion like he did. Jones moved to 5-1 inside the Octagon and 11-1 overall—the lone smudge on his perfect record a disqualification against Matt Hamill. At a glance, it appears the fight was a lateral movement for Jones, adding no higher trajectory to his rising star. However, the New York native’s second headlining bout pointed to a variety of factors that prove the bout was a pivotal contest for Jones.
The 23-year-old took center cage in an Anderson Silvaesque stance. Like kids trying to emulate their favorite baseball player’s swings, the New York mimicked “The Spider” in a live environment against a tough veteran and it worked. He absorbs and executes what he sees. Judo, for example, he’s picked up from YouTube. There’s no reward with risk, fun without creativity or winning without technique and Jones has struck a balance between all.
He realized the expectations surrounding him and made adjustments to ensure he’d live up to those expectations. Jones refused to underestimate the Belarusian despite being given every reason by media and fans to believe he was markedly better than the former IFL Light Heavyweight Champion. Greg Jackson’s team expressed Jones’ biggest strides in the Matyushenko camp were as a person. In an individual sport, the most dangerous combatant can be oneself—Jones has fended off defeating himself through humility and dedication.
Jones has been wisely brought up through the ranks slowly by the UFC, allowing him to progress as a fighter. What’s missing from the equation has been an opponent to push Jones inside the cage. Without seeing how Jones handles real adversity in a fight, it’s too soon to punch his ticket for a title shot.
Winning, and doing so convincingly, necessitates fighters move toward the belt, especially with the backing of fans like Jones enjoys. But the UFC needs to continue its steady path with him. The UFC requires its Chuck Liddell’s and Jones is clearly emerging as a staple star. Rushing into a title fight isn’t worth the risk of forcing Jones before he’s ready. After all, he admittedly just started maturing as a person and a fighter.
Jones is clamoring for a test inside the cage though. Without jumping into title bouts, a returning Thiago Silva is a stern challenge or a fight with the winner of Tito Ortiz-Matt Hamill can benefit Jones. Ortiz’s divisive personality can elevate Jones, while a rematch with a much-improved Hamill would give Jones an opportunity to eradicate the lone loss on his record no matter how dubious.
Okami On Point
Perennial contender Yushin Okami bested standout wrestler Mark Munoz via split decision. “Thunder” showcased his most complete game to date as he’s refined his passive style into a patient defensive, counter style with strong bursts of offense standing, clinching and grappling. Dana White’s recent remarks that he’s warming up to an Okami title shot should hold more weight now. A fight with Vitor Belfort or Chris Leben could serve as number one contender contests.
Ellenberger Asks for Top Welterweights
Jake Ellenberger swelled John Howard’s eye so bad Howard could have been cast a zombie in a movie without any makeup. It’s the welterweight’s second consecutive UFC stoppage and the Reign Training Center product feels ready to step up in competition. A chance at Mike Swick would be the right step for the 25-year-old.
Former PRIDE Lightweight Champion Takanori Gomi lit up Tyson Griffin with a right hook 64 seconds into his second UFC fight, scoring his first UFC victory. It’s the first time in 18 fights Griffin’s night ended early and given Griffin’s consistent spot near the top of the division, “The Fireball Kid” is one of few marketable challengers for the 155-pound crown. A shot at the loser of Frankie Edgar-B.J. Penn II or a scrap with Clay Guida could clarify if Gomi is ready for a return for prominence.