by Samantha L. Johnson – MMAWeekly.com
Sunday, Aug. 1, Vladimir Matyushenko will step in the Octagon to face a man 16 years his junior, but with the agility of youth comes the naivety of inexperience. With a career that spans 13 years, Matyushenko started fighting when Jon Jones (10-1) was only 10 years old.
Approaching 40, he has increasingly been feeling the pressure to keep up with the young up-and-coming fighters that have recently joined the upper MMA echelon.
“The style of the new generation, I train young guys too, it’s what I have to look out for,” explains Matyushenko. “You know, these young, talented, quick, tall guys… the old timers have to keep up with it.”
Leading the new generation is 23-year-old class=SpellE>phenom Jon Jones, but the reason he’s leading it is because he stands out so much from the other new bloods. Most people involved in MMA agree that Jones is someone to look out for, and will one day be a titleholder. He possesses a style that, like former light heavyweight titleholder Lyoto Machida, is hard for many to tackle.
“I’ve watched his fights and tried to find holes in his game,” said Matyushenko. “But it’s very hard, because he’s very unpredictable. He doesn’t have a particular style where he is consistently doing certain things. There are a few things he does, but he changes from left-hand stance to right-hand stance and just does some crazy stuff. But I think in order to win, I have to keep him backing up, keep the pressure on.”
Pressure is something Jones hasn’t seen before, not from an experienced veteran like Matyushenko. Jones’ lone loss is by disqualification due to an illegal elbow when he fought Matt Hamill at “The Ultimate Fighter Season 10 Finale.”
Over half of Matyushenko’s 28 fights have gone to a decision, for some that would read that he doesn’t finish fights, but when arguing experience, it means he has gone the distance on several occasions, and won an overwhelming majority of those occasions.
“It can go both ways. He can say he hasn’t lost a fight,” said Matyushenko. “He’s all hyped up right now. He’s a favorite; I’m the underdog, but I like to be the underdog. It puts a lot of pressure on me as far as public opinion and stuff. I don’t think he’s fought against top
guys yet. It puts a lot of pressure going against top guys when you haven’t lost yet. I think it’s going to be the downfall for him.”
Originally scheduled to fight in Salt Lake City, Utah, a change in venue brought the UFC on Versus 2 card to class=SpellE>Matyushenko’s backyard. Training in Southern California, traveling to fight in Utah would have meant leaving camp a week in advance and flying in training partners to polish his game plan in the final days leading up to the fight. However, since the fight was relocated, Matyushenko has the
luxury of training at his normal gym with his usual lot of training partners all the way until fight day.
“I feel more comfortable. It’s close to home. I can drive there and don’t have to fly,” said Matyushenko. “I was thinking of bringing all my partners, or some of the guys to Utah a few weeks before, but now I don’t have to do that.”
While fighting in or near your training base lends advantages, it can also put on added pressure. When a fighter is a hometown favorite, they are expected to deliver an exciting performance, a task that is often easier said than done, especially when the fight is the main event.
“If I start to think too much (about being the main event) it can affect the performance itself,” said Matyushenko. “I don’t think you can think that, but at the same time, I want to keep the fight exciting and the fans happy. It’s pretty hard. If you talk to any fighter they will say the mental preparation is the hardest. You can train in the gym, but not everyone goes and performs in front of thousands of people.”
Samantha L. Johnson is a freelance writer originally from Southeast Idaho, currently living in Las Vegas, NV. Visit www.sxjohnson.net for her ramblings of on living in the MMA Mecca.