SAN DIEGO — A common refrain from Jon Jones this week was that Vladimir Matyushenko would be the toughest test of his young career.
He made the veteran look more like a kindergarten spelling quiz.
Jones stopped Matyushenko with a barrage of left elbows just 1:52 into the first round of the main event of an Ultimate Fighting Championship card at the San Diego Sports Arena on Sunday night.
“Right now, I’m passing these tests with flying colors,” the emerging superstar said.
The 23-year-old said after the victory he’s ready to gauge where he stands in the talent-rich light heavyweight division, specifically against one of the top three contenders.
“I don’t want to sound arrogant. I’m aware there’s a lot of better fighters out there now. I really have no leeway to think I’m the man,” he said. “I’m aware I’m still a kid in the sport and I have a lot of maturing to do. I want to fight someone who’s supposedly much better than me.”
That didn’t happen Sunday night, though Matyushenko entered the match a winner of 11 of his last 12 fights.
Jones landed the only significant standing blow of the bout, a well-timed spinning back kick, then followed it up with a trip that sent Matyushenko to the mat on his back.
Jones ended up in top position, then seamlessly worked to side control and finally to a mounted crucifix. From there, it was just a matter of time as Jones unleashed a series of hard elbows.
“This was going to be a major test for me. I didn’t think it would end that quickly,” Jones said.
It was very similar to the way Jones manhandled his two previous opponents. He threw both Matt Hamill and Brandon Vera to the ground with ease before pounding them with elbows.
The Hamill fight went down as the only official loss in Jones’ career because several of the elbows in a sustained onslaught were deemed illegal and Hamill couldn’t continue. Jones made no such mistake once he had Matyushenko down.
Despite the ease with which he won, Jones said the victory was important.
“To the hard core fans, they know how tough Vladimir is. There’s nothing dissatisfying about beating Vladimir Matyushenko.”
Yushin Okami also earned a victory on the card, but wasn’t as pleased.
The middleweight neutralized the takedown attempts of former NCAA national champion wrestler Mark Munoz, and did enough damage to earn a split decision.
With his takedowns ineffective, Munoz found himself swinging wildly for a knockout. He landed a few shots, but never put Okami in real jeopardy.
Okami appeared to win the first and third rounds fairly substantially, but judge Cecil Peoples awarded Munoz the opening frame to create the split verdict.
The scores didn’t sit well with Okami.
“I won, so I’ll live with it. I can’t say I’m wild about the decision,” he said through an interpreter. “It looked a little better to me than a 2-1 split.”
Now a winner of 9 of 11 fights in the UFC, Okami positioned himself in the mix of title contenders.
Takanori Gomi earned his first UFC victory with a one-punch knockout of Las Vegan Tyson Griffin.
Gomi, a star in Japan who had lost his UFC debut to Kenny Florian in March, landed a right hook that sent Griffin face-first into the mat and prompted a stoppage at 1:04 of the opening round.
Also, Jake Ellenberger defeated John Howard when the ringside doctor ruled Howard couldn’t continue midway through the third round.
Ellenberger was in top position throughout much of the first two rounds, and landed a shot somewhere along the way that caused Howard’s eye to swell shut.
The fight was allowed to continue after the second round, but Howard appeared to know he wouldn’t be given much time. He came out swinging, but couldn’t finish and when the action slowed, his eye was re-examined and the fight was stopped.
Also on the undercard, Rob Kimmons and Jacob Volkmann earned decision victories and Matthew Riddle scored a TKO over DeMarques Johnson.
Brian Stann, Igor Pokrajac and Charles Oliveira took home submission wins.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5509.