If you ask UFC 141 fighter Vladimir Matyushenko if he feels he’s a Top 10 fighter, he won’t be shy about saying yes. He’ll tell you about the ways he’s proved it and reference publications that see him as such. And if he doesn’t tell you, his manager, Nima Safapour, will be sure to explain to you why his fighter is one of the more underrated competitors you’ll find in the game.
In case you’re thinking this is crazy, just calm down for a moment, take seat, and do a Google search. A simple look at Matyushenko’s record will clear things up a bit more and reveal, since returning to the UFC in 2009, “The Janitor” has cleaned up, going 4-1 in that stretch. The only loss during that time was to the current UFC light heavyweight champion and seemingly unbeatable Jon Jones.
If anything, circumstances have hindered his universal consideration for Top 10 status, according to Matyushenko. Following his first-round knockout of Jason Brilz at UFC 129, he fancied himself in the upper echelon of light heavyweights, but an injury prior to his August fight put him down a bit.
“I think after my (last) fight, I was Top 10,” Matyushenko told MMAWeekly.com while in Toronto helping his training partner, Jared Hamman, prepare for his fight at UFC 140. “But because of my injury, I didn’t fight in August and (I was) pushed back.
“I felt pretty good before the fight, felt strong. And it’s not like somebody else hurt me; I kind of hurt myself. Sometimes it’s too bad to be too strong.”
Prior to the injury that forced him off the UFC 133 card in Philadelphia, Matyushenko was considered to fight in the main event against Rashad Evans. He said he was pretty close to getting that fight, admitting that he talked to UFC president Dana White about it. But things never materialized and, ultimately, he was forced off the card because of a pulled muscle.
Matyushenko was originally scheduled to face Alexander Gustafsson on that card. Now that everyone is healthy and no muscles are being pulled, the fight will happen in Las Vegas. Gustafsson, like Matyushenko, is surrounded with talk of Top 10 potential. But the Belarusian doesn’t consider his opponent to be that highly ranked. Not yet, anyway. According to Matyushenko, there are too many guys worthy of consideration prior to the 24-year-old.
“It’s a little bit too early,” he responded when asked if it’s too soon to consider Gustafsson a Top 10 light heavyweight. “It’s not because he’s not deserving, but I think the 205 division is stacked with too many good people.
“We’ll see after the fight in Vegas.”
When breaking down his pending opposition, Matyushenko sees a chink in Gustafsson’s armor. The jab, apparently, will work to “The Janitor’s” advantage. This is evident from Gustafsson’s last performance, Matyushenko said, and confirms to him that the young Swedish fighter is vulnerable in that approach. He can thank Matt Hamill for that.
“He’s beatable,” he said. “I just saw his last fight with Matt Hamill and he was able to jab him without a problem. He just got a little bit tired, so he’s beatable.”
Matyushenko will look to prove Gustafsson is beatable on Dec. 30 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena as part of UFC 141’s main card on pay-per-view.