UFC 129: Is UFC Putting Matyushenko on Main Card to Backfill Jon Jones' Record?

Scott HarrisMMA Lead WriterApril 9, 2011

INGLEWOOD, CA - MARCH 17: Vladimir Matyushenko of Team Sabres (blue trunks) wins his bout against Justin Levens of Team Condors ( white trunks) during the International Fighting League at The Forum on March 17, 2007 in Inglewood, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images for IFL)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

At UFC 129, Vladimir Matyushenko will fight Jason Brilz.

On the main card.

Assuming the pay-per-view costs $50, that's $10 per fight. Matyushenko and Brilz are fine fighters, but is it worth shelling out $10 to watch them fight? I don't think so.

And you can be sure the UFC is aware of that line of thought, seeing as how it's a business and all.

So why did they do it? I have an interesting theory, and you don't even need a tin-foil helmet to enjoy it.

But first, a little background. Matyushenko is a veteran of the decidedly grizzled variety. He found modest success in the UFC's early days, until a 2003 loss to Andrei Arlovski put him out of the promotion for several years.

After running his professional record to 22-4, Matyushenko returned to the UFC in 2009 to fight Igor Pokrajac at UFC 103. The fight was (get ready) on the undercard. The Janitor won by unanimous decision.

Fast forward six months to UFC Live: Vera vs. Jones, an event that aired on basic cable. Vladimir was again on the undercard, this time picking up a split decision over Eliot Marshall.

In his next fight, Matyushenko was handled by a young up-and-comer by the name of Jon Jones.

After the Jones fight, Matyushenko was unceremoniously returned to the trenches, in the form of an undercard bout with Alexandre Ferreira at UFC 122. Matyushenko won by TKO.

That brings us to this month's main-card bout with Brilz.

This will be Jason Brilz's sixth fight in the UFC, and second turn on the main card.

In his first, at UFC 114 last May, Brilz dropped a split decision to an aging-before-our-eyes Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, who went on to lose two in a row after defeating Brilz.

So to sum up, we've got two guys who have each fought once on the main card, and lost in the effort.

What in their MMA records qualifies them for another shot? Would you rank either of these guys as contenders, or even potential contenders, at light heavyweight? Would you rank them as gatekeepers?  I wouldn't.

To me, these guys epitomize journeymen. No disrespect to them, because it's pretty doggone hard to break into the UFC. But they're not main-card fighters.

No, the reason they're on the main card, in my opinion, is for one simple reason: the UFC wants to retroactively bolster Jon Jones' resume.

A main-card appearance from a recent opponent (who, it could be and has been argued, was little more than a sacrificial lamb on the Bones Jones altar, and fought accordingly) would seem to do the trick.

I'm not saying this entire thing was orchestrated for this sole purpose. After all, the fight was originally supposed to be Matt Hamill and Phil Davis (a pay-per-view lock) and for various reasons it became Matyushenko-Brilz instead. But don't tell me the UFC can't make new arrangements. It's their show.

I also know that both men are good fighters. Brilz, in particular, has been impressive, controlling Lil Nog for much of their fight to the point that the decision in Nog's favor elicited some boos from the crowd. But just because they're good doesn't mean they're PPV material.

A lot of people, especially following Jones' thorough dismantling of The Janitor, wondered if the Matyushenko challenge (as well as the path to the championship belt) wasn't just a bit too easy for Jones.

An appearance by Matyushenko on the main card might, in the eyes of some, help legitimize that path.

Seeing as how so many perceive Jones to be the UFC's big star of the future, it would make sense that the UFC would want to do whatever they could to alleviate any perception that he somehow had an easy road to the championship.

Obviously, in hindsight it's clear Jones was ready, seeing as how he is now, you know, the champ. And yet, a fast rise is a fast rise.

Could the UFC be wanting to make one of Jones' earlier opponents look just a little stronger in the rear-view mirror?

I think it's entirely possible. The UFC added Brilz and Matyushenko after two other guys pulled out, but rather than make the rearrangements, they let scheduling inertia take control. Fair enough.

But they can't have ignored the beneficial effect a main-card appearance would have on Matyushenko's reputation and, by extension, the reputation of Jon Jones.

Jones may not be a household name yet, but barring something unforeseen, he's going to be, and maybe sooner than anyone might have anticipated not so long ago.

The UFC, as I mentioned before, is a business. Anything that can buttress the position of a potential cash cow is going to be good for business. That is, in part, why Vladimir Matyushenko is on your main card come April 30.