The trouble with being a hot young prospect in the UFC is that there are so many ways to go wrong, and only one way to go right. It's a good problem to have, but it's still a problem, not to mention a minor headache.
Think about that for a moment. Jones, a relative novice, is expected to walk right through a veteran who's 11-1 in his last 12 outings. If he doesn't, if he simply beats Matyushenko in a close fight, it will most likely be considered a disappointment for him. Anything short of a one-sided shellacking, and out come the critics.
That's a tough spot to be in as a 23-year-old fighter, particularly against an opponent who's much tougher than most fans realize.
Granted, the hardcores appreciate what Matyushenko can do. Those who were around to see him fight
Is that unfair? Yeah, but that's the fight business. The good news for Jones is that, at least on paper, he has the edge in almost every department in this fight. He's bigger, taller and longer than Matyushenko. He's faster, more athletic and in a completely different class with his striking.
Matyushenko's best hope is to get in close and make it a slow, ugly fight and win a decision. The problem is, Jones is at least a good enough wrestler that holding him in one place for 15 minutes seems next to impossible.
Again, if you do the math on this fight, it's hard to see any way it doesn't end in a relatively easy victory for Jones, which is exactly what makes this one so dangerous for him. As we've seen often enough in MMA, there are plenty of times where the math doesn't add up the way it's supposed to.
As we look around at the other fights that fill out the TV broadcast, it becomes clear that this is a cable TV event less than a week before a UFC pay-per-view. These are the guys the UFC doesn't mind putting on free TV, because it's doubtful you're going to be motivated to pay to see any of them at this point.
That's not to say they're bad matchups.
Then you have
Finally, we've got
Both these guys are tough welterweight prospects with great ground skills. After Howard's highlight-reel knockout of
While the UFC waits to find out the answer, the Versus undercard is about as good a place as any for this fight. As with the rest of the lineup, even if it doesn't turn out to be anything worth talking about at the water cooler on Monday morning, at least it was free.