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Even as We All Write Him Off Tonight, Let’s Not Forget Vladimir Matyushenko is a Pretty Awesome Dude

(Warning: Do not try this at home. Listening to traditional Russian folk music while doing power cleans should only be performed by professionals. VidProps: YouTube/MMAWarehouse)

If the main event of tonight’s UFC Live on Versus fight card plays out like we all think it’s going to, Vladimir Matyushenko is likely going to need some moral support. Matyushenko’s methodical, wrestling-based style seems tailor made for exploitation by the younger, faster, more dynamic Jon Jones. At least that’s what UFC matchmakers are counting on (more on that later today). Bottom line: It doesn’t look good on paper for “The Janitor,” so if Matyushenko ends up getting beat up kind of badly tonight it would serve us all well to remember that he is actually a totally awesome dude who deserves a ton of respect.

After all, you don’t get a nickname of begrudging admiration from guys like Mark Coleman and Kevin Jackson during a wrestling meet in Siberia without pretty much being a badass.

After cutting his teeth in the international wrestling scene while the Cold War was still grinding to a close, Matyushenko frickin’ defected from his native Belarus to the U.S. while in New York for a grappling tournament in 1993. There aren’t a lot of other active MMA fighters who can say that. As the story goes, he and some teammates simply walked away from their hotel one afternoon and headed for the nearest political embassy. That, kids, takes some balls.

With almost no money and very little English Matyushenko managed to get himself moved to California and enroll in junior college, where the wrestling team was assumedly very, very happy to have him. He won two JuCo national championships and credits his coaches and teammates there for teaching him enough of the language to allow him to transfer to the University of Nevada (Go Wolfpack) and earn his degree.

Now, if that story doesn’t renew your faith in America, I don’t know what will. Maybe go watch “Red Dawn” or something.

Matyushenko had his first MMA fight in 1997 and then went 3-2 in the UFC between 2001-03. He fought both Tito Ortiz and Andrei Arlovski back when that actually meant something and after leaving the organization moved on to feast on lesser competition as the IFL’s only light heavyweight champion. He came back to the Octagon last year and is currently riding a two-fight win-streak in the promotion. Not bad for a dude who was serving his time in the Belarusian military back when Jon Jones was six years old.

The soft-spoken Matyushenko hasn’t exactly done a Sonnen-esque job of selling tonight’s fight against Jones, so it’s no surprise that he’s been mostly overlooked. It just doesn’t seem to be in his nature to talk trash. Also though, it’d be naive to think Matyushenko doesn’t know on some level that the UFC fully intends to use him as fodder for Jones’ career. But as the 23-year-old phenom rightfully gobbles up most of the headlines and prefight attention, we’d be remiss for not recognizing Matyushenko as one of the sport’s true success stories. No matter what happens tonight, Vladimir, you’re cool with me.

Cagepotato Comments

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SnakeJake- August 1, 2010 at 3:35 pm
I've watched SALT. Now I think everyone is a Russian Spy.
BattleBorn- August 1, 2010 at 3:09 pm
internet tufguy- August 1, 2010 at 1:51 pm

This right is here is called TRUTH!!
steampunk22- August 1, 2010 at 10:05 am
^^Cyborgs new nickname.

Good post CP. I like Matyushenko, always comes across as a down to earth and laid back. And you're right, he's gotta know on some level that the UFC has basically thrown him to the wolves on this one. The saving grace is that if he loses he won't be cut, which is probably half their reason for justifying the matchup, they obviously aren't looking to drive him out of the organization. That being said, watch for the wily old man to surprise people. You don't hang around in this sport, for this long, with the record that he has, without having a few tricks up your sleeve.


Plus Jones is a snitch.
dannyvalentine- August 1, 2010 at 9:58 am
power snatch, ha
HARJO- August 1, 2010 at 9:56 am

I love Vlad for being a fellow University of Nevada alum, unfortunately that doesn't count for shit went Jonny Bones is throwing spinning side check kicks at your ass.
SocraticMethod- August 1, 2010 at 9:48 am
miscreant - I was thinking the same thing. Maybe it's CP's sly way of saying that they don't really think Vlad is a professional.
Ballkick- August 1, 2010 at 9:48 am
I love an underdog, I'm sure Vladimir Matyushenko qualifies for this title.
I would love to see him defeat Jones.... Would I bet my next paycheck on him,....NO.
But stranger things have happened, and I will be rooting for the upset.
Really looking forward to tonights card.

As I stated in another thread: Munoz, Ellenberger, Gomi, Kelly, Irvin, DaMarques Johnson, James Irvin, Brian Stann Charles Oliveira, Rob Kimmons ....all to win.
itsgalf- August 1, 2010 at 9:44 am
defected? yeah right, he's still a spy
One Two- August 1, 2010 at 9:34 am
Whos writing him Off? Vladys gonna ruin that little snitch. this won't be the first or even seventh time someone with +400 odds won.
Almost North- August 1, 2010 at 9:25 am
I am rooting for The Janitor tonight.
I even think he can win.
bigHAL13- August 1, 2010 at 9:02 am
damn i got 3rd. jones for the killer win
HammyHams- August 1, 2010 at 9:00 am
Good article.
miscreant- August 1, 2010 at 8:54 am
Not to be an asshole, but those are hang power snatches...not power cleans! haha but inspiring nonetheless.