The UFC returns to Versus this Sunday featuring their biggest rising star Jon "Bones" Jones vs Vladimir "The Janitor" Matyushenko. This is the UFC's first return to Versus since March and their first card in almost a month.
This card also features Mark Munoz vs Yushin Okami in a pivotal middleweight tilt. And Takanori Gomi looks to notch his first UFC win against the always tough Tyson Griffin. This should be a solid card filled with good young talent, so let's break it down:
Jon Jones vs Vladimir Matyushenko
Jones is 10-1 with eight wins by stoppage. He has a strong wrestling background and a very versatile striking game. He has slowly moved up the 205 lb ladder and his only defeat came by disqualification in a fight he was dominating.
Matyushenko is 24-4 with 14 wins by stoppage. He also has a strong wrestling background with some striking skills. He has fought a lot of tough competition and all of his losses have come against reputable opponents.
All signs point to Jones winning this fight. Jones has the better technical striking. He is younger, bigger, faster, more athletic, probably stronger, and has an enormous reach advantage.
The only thing Matyushenko has going for him is he has much more experience and his pure wrestling ability is probably greater than Jones'. If Matyshenko can stay smart, get inside, and put Jones on his back and keep him there for 15 minutes he might be able to steal this fight.
If Matyushenko can't do that he's going to be in a heap of trouble. I'm picking Jones to pick apart Matyushenko on the outside until he's able to stop the fight in the second round for the TKO victory.
Jones is a rising star in the UFC light heavyweight division. Hopefully they don't rush him along too quickly and we get to see Jones against a couple more high quality opponents before he's given a title shot.
Mark Munoz vs Yushin Okami
Munoz is 8-1 with five wins by stoppage. He is a wrestler with a developing BJJ and striking game. He has fought some tough fighters with success in the middleweight division.
Okami is 24-5 with 13 wins by stoppage. He is also a wrestler with a strong Judo and striking pedigree. He has fought a lot of tough fighters with a lot of success.
These guys are essentially mirror images of each other but Okami has more experience and a more developed all around grappling and striking game. Unless Munoz has become much more proficient in his striking and submission game I can't see him out wrestling Okami for 15 minutes.
I'm picking Okami to grind out another tough decision victory against a game opponent.
John Howard vs Jake Ellenberger
Howard is 14-4 with 10 wins by stoppage. He is a grappler with some striking skill. He has faced some tough fighters with mostly positive results.
Ellenberger is 22-5 with 19 wins by stoppage. He is a wrestler with a strong striking game. He has faced some tough opponents with mixed results.
I don't think Howard has the striking to stay with Ellenberger on the feet though anything can happen in an MMA fight. Howard will probably look to use his BJJ where he has an advantage but I don't think he'll catch Ellenberger even if he can get the fight to the mat. I'm picking Ellenberger to win by TKO in the first round.
Tyson Griffin vs Takanori "The Fireball Kid" Gomi
Griffin is 14-3 with eight wins by stoppage. He is a wrestler who likes to strike. He has fought a lot of tough fighters with mostly positive results.
Gomi is 31-6 with 17 wins by stoppage. He is a boxer with a solid wrestling background. He has fought the best in the business and was the Pride lightweight champion, but he has flamed out as of late (pun intended).
Neither of these guys is going to want to take the fight down even with their wrestling backgrounds so it should be a fun fight. Griffin is going to bring his entire striking arsenal at Gomi and I don't think Gomi is going to have the answer.
Gomi may only be 31 but this sport has passed him by and he hasn't done much about it over the last two years. I'm picking Griffin to win a fun and lopsided decision victory. This loss will probably spell the end of Gomi's UFC career and will help revive Griffin's.
Paul Kelly vs Jacob Volkmann
Volkmann hasn't looked good since joining the UFC. However, I think moving down to lightweight was a good move for him and he should be more accustomed to the weight for this fight.
Kelly has seen more success in the UFC than Volkmann but I think both fighters are going to want to impose their will on the other and I think Volkmann's size and wrestling will be the difference. I'm picking Volkmann to win by submission in the second round.
DaMarques Johnson vs Matthew Riddle
Johnson has the better striking and more experience but I think Riddle has the better grappling and is the more talented fighter. I'm picking Riddle to grind out a decision victory.
James Irvin vs Igor Pokrajac
Irivin hasn't looked good in the last couple years but Pokrajac has never beaten anyone of note. It will be a classic striker vs grappler match up which I usually give to the grappler but I think Irvin will use whatever wrestling ability he has to stay up right and land the KO blow in the second round.
Brian Stann vs Mike Massenzio
Massenzio wasn't a bad fighter but he has been out of the game for two years and that's too long a layoff to jump back into the UFC against someone like Stann. Massenzio will rely on his grappling but I don't think it will be enough against Stann's boxing. I'm picking Stann to win by TKO in the first round.
Darren Elkins vs Charles Oliveira
Elkins has the advantage in wrestling and in experience against better competition. However, I think Oliveira has the answer wherever the fight goes. Normally I don't pick UFC rookies but I'm making an exception here. I'm picking Oliveira to win by TKO in the first round.
Rob Kimmons vs Steve Steinbeiss
Both of these guys are coming off losses and long lay offs so this is an important fight for both guys. Kimmons has faced more and better competition even if hasn't done so well against it. He also has the grappling advantage.
Stenbeiss could knock him out but I'm picking Kimmons to win by submission in the first round. This loss will put Steinbeiss on the chopping block most likely and resuscitate Kimmons' UFC career.