MMAForReal.com's Matt Bishop and Forrest Lynn sat down Friday evening and answered four burning questions for this Sunday's "UFC on Versus 2: Jones vs. Matyushenko," one for each main card fight.
For more UFC on Versus 2 coverage, check out the MMA For Real's Event Center for the show. Don't forget that Lights Out Radio will be live at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT Sunday to preview the show's main card. Then you can join us for the open thread and discussion and then again for another edition of Lights Out Radio immediately following the show.
Now, without any further ado, here are the burning questions for UFC on Versus 2:
What would a Jon Jones loss mean?
Matt Bishop: To me, not a whole lot. Each Jon Jones fight has been tempered to a certain extent with talk of "he's so young and raw," and that's absolutely true, and that's why a loss to a veteran like Vladimir Matyushenko, while I don't expect it to happen, is not as out of the realm of possibilities as many seem to believe. At 23 years old, Jones still is a prospect despite his meteoric rise in this sport. Young fighters can make mistakes. A loss would be a setback, yes, but it would not be the end of the world. And a true loss might make Jones even better in the future.
Forrest Lynn: A Jon Jones loss would be unfortunate for him and certainly put the brakes on his rapid acceleration toward title contention in the immediate future, but he is 23 years old and still barely scratching the surface of his athletic potential. I'm sure a sky is falling on his career narrative would develop almost instantaneously, but losses happen and are really not the total career death knell they're regarded as being most of the time.
Do you think Yushin Okami has gotten a bad rap around the MMA world? If he finishes Mark Munoz, is his UFC career rejuvenated with two straight finishes?
Matt Bishop: Skill-wise, Okami has it. I don't think many would argue that. His bad rap comes from some boring decisions he's been apart of. Okami, though, and to his credit, showed some aggression we haven't seen from him when he pasted Lucio Linhares earlier this year. If he can sustain that in this fight with Mark Munoz, I think it would be safe to say we're seeing a new Yushin Okami, one who can be pushed as a contender to the middleweight championship. Okami is not your typical Japanese fighter. He's an American-style fighter in a Japanese man's body. It's not something we see too often. If Okami keeps evolving his game and shows that ruthless aggression, he is going to be a force to be reckoned with.
Forrest Lynn: Okami has certainly developed a bad rap around the MMA world, but that "bad rap" is basically people just thinking he's not entertaining. No one has ever questioned his ability, but he was certainly squandering some of his potential by staying in the same surroundings in Japan and training with the same fighters he had been working with for years when his talent had already clearly usurped theirs. He said himself that he found himself on the offensive most of the time in training, which does not set you up well for dealing with adversity in a live cage fight. Since then, he has taken his very American frame (6-plus feet tall, around the 220 pound range before dieting down and cutting weight) and began training at Yoshihiro Akiyama's Team Cloud (a sort of Japanese Xtreme Couture) and Team Quest in Oregon with Chael Sonnen. Okami immediately began to show improvement, operating with a killer quick jab and much more measured aggression. The UFC has always regarded Okami as a commodity because of his status as a dominant Asian fighter, and they responded as such with giving Okami a feature bout after an impressive stoppage against Lucio Linhares this spring. Another finish here against Munoz could land him in a title eliminator as soon as his next bout.In terms of their placement and future in the division, who needs a win more, Jake Ellenberger or John Howard?
Matt Bishop: A 4-0 start in the company is nothing to sneeze at and, on paper, looks very good. But for John Howard, that number is a bit deceiving. Two of those wins were split decisions, but the other two were knockouts, so it's an interesting situation. But in terms of skill shown, Jake Ellenberger is the fighter to be taking the long look at in this fight and, at 1-1, is certainly the fighter who needs the win more here. Ellenberger arguably could be 2-0 and was taking it to Carlos Condit early in their fight. His power is scary. Howard, to me, even though he's 4-0, hasn't been all that impressive in doing it. If we're talking long-term futures here, Ellenberger is the fighter with the brighter future in the company, which also is why he needs the win more.
Forrest Lynn: I don't think John Howard is very long for the UFC, personally. He is 4-0 in the company, but that 4-0 is essentially smoke and mirrors. I feel as if his first two wins against Chris Wilson and Tamdan McCrory were questionable decisions at best, and he was getting positively dominated by Dennis Hallman before a goofy standup in the waning seconds allowed him to KO him with a nice punch. Ellenberger is clearly someone with a tremendous amount of talent with real credentials to back that hype up, being a collegiate standout at the University of Nebraska with some impressive scalps and performances already on his record (his brutal KO of vale tudo legend Pele that left him vomiting on the canvas is particularly nice). For this camp, he trained at Reign (Mark Munoz's gym), sparring with guys like King Mo, Fabricio Werdum, Renato Sobral and Munoz himself. Ellenberger usually comes out firing and has a rocket powered right hand, and I think he will land that on Howard and notch himself an impressive victory. If one judge sees one round of that Condit fight differently, Ellenberger would be in the position that Condit is in right now and heading upward. I think he launches upward here and Howard falls out of the UFC in relatively short order, provided he gets a higher level of opposition than what he has currently been facing.
Is Takanori Gomi done in the UFC is he loses to Tyson Griffin?
Matt Bishop: I think he's toast without a doubt. If Griffin beats him, I can't see it being competitive. I think the only way Gomi gets another shot with a loss is if he goes down in a blaze of glory. A true fire fight. A gutty, gritty effort where you can't possibly cut the guy. But with the way Gomi has looked recently, and specifically in the Kenny Florian fight, I just can't see this ending well for him, especially since this is a fight Griffin has wanted for years.
Forrest Lynn: If Gomi loses to Griffin, I do believe he is gone from the UFC and he should be. He is one of the many legends left behind in the transition to big time training and high stakes fighting every time out. No layups, nothing easy. Gomi can't handle it, and therefore should be gone.