Few prospects in the UFC have been as highly touted as Jon (Bones) Jones.
An unorthodox striker with powerful judo and Greco-Roman throws, the 23-year-old light-heavyweight has notched impressive wins over Stephan (American Psycho) Bonnar, Andre Gusmao and Brandon (The Truth) Vera. He also has an 84-inch reach, the longest of any fighter in the UFC.
Though some have dubbed him the next big thing, Jones (10-1) is the last person to buy into his own hype.
"Being humble is really important to me," Jones said on a UFC conference call. "A lot of guys state that I've never fought anyone and I'm not proven. In a way, they're right. I haven't fought a top 10 or a top 5 guy yet. So knowing that, I really have no leeway to think that I'm the man. I just work really hard and I want to be the best.
"My style is just really interesting to watch to people and people write these articles, but none of this is stuff coming out of my mouth, about being 'the next greatest.' It's scary to me sometimes to hear all that stuff. But it motivates me to work really hard, stay focused and realize that I've got a lot to learn."
Jones, whose sole defeat was the result of a disqualification due to illegal elbows against Matt (The Hammer) Hamill in a fight he was dominating last December, faces tough veteran Vladimir (The Janitor) Matyushenko in the main event of UFC on Versus 2. The show, which will be held at the San Diego Sports Arena on Aug. 1, also features a co-headlining middleweight bout between Yushin (Thunder) Okami and Mark (The Filipino Wrecking Machine) Munoz.
Though Jones is a heavy favourite to win, he said too many people are underestimating Matyushenko (24-4).
"I think he's very underrated in this fight," Jones said. "I've watched Vladimir's fights -- pretty much all of them -- and I've watched them over and over again. I've watched him do some pretty extraordinary things, beat some pretty good fighters and just be a dominant grinder. With a record of 24-4, how do you not go to practice every day and do those extra pushups?
"In all reality, I think I should be the underdog in this fight. I'm going to keep that mindset and I'm going train as if it's the biggest fight of my life. In my opinion, Vladimir is tougher than Brandon Vera. I think Vladimir is tougher than Matt Hamill."
The first and last International Fight League light-heavyweight champion, Matyushenko holds notable wins over Antonio Rogerio (Minotoro) Nogueira and Pedro (The Rock) Rizzo. At UFC 33, he was on the losing end of a unanimous decision in a light-heavyweight title fight against Tito (The Huntington Beach Bad Boy) Ortiz. The only loss in his last 12 fights came via TKO in the rematch with Nogueira (18-3) at Affliction: Day of Reckoning in early 2009.
With a career spanning 13 years, Matyushenko said his biggest advantage is his experience.
"Experience definitely makes a difference," Matyushenko said. "It's not only about certain moves I know, it's experience in preparation for the fight, how to train, how to deal with injuries, how come out in the best shape you can be in. Otherwise, experience doesn't mean anything if you can't use it in a fight.
"It's one of the things I have on Jon. I can't have a longer reach, but I have experience. That's what I'll try to use against him."
Jones said Mayushenko’s experience won't amount to much come fight night.
"The biggest thing with Vladimir's experience is to use it against him and to be something he's never fought against in a lot of different ways," Jones said. "You know, being a guy who can kick, throw high kicks and low kicks with both legs; switch stances; who can shoot double-legs; who can throw; who can do jiu jitsu; who is taller and can use his footwork.
"I've watched his fights and I don't think he's fought anyone like me. So I'm just going to use that against him and keep him off-balance in every way. So I'm just going to be something that he's never seen before."
Matyushenko agreed that he's never fought an opponent with the specific skill set of Jones. However, he said one advantage experience offers is the ability to read the tempo of a fight and change his strategy accordingly.
"Hopefully my experience will let me adjust," Matyushenko said. "I know Jon is a very unique person, not just because I've never fought a guy like that, but because I don't think even he knows what he's going to do next. So he's very unpredictable and it'’s hard to get ready to fight somebody like that."