UFC 141: An ode to 'The Janitor'

At UFC 141: 'Lesnar vs. Overeem' Vladimir Matyushenko (26-5) takes on rising Swedish prospect Alexander Gustaffsson (12-1) in light heavyweight action. The bout takes place Dec. 30th 2011 live on pay per view fromthe MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has housed some of the sports greatest legends like Randy Couture, Royce Gracie, Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz. Under the radar a few have been great that just haven't been recognized on the same level as the aforementioned.

The UFC's light heavyweight divisionis stacked with star power in the likes of champion Jon Jones, Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida, Quinton Jackson and Dan Henderson. The rising prospects of the division include Phil Davis and Matyushenko's opponent at UFC 140, Alexander Gustaffson.

One fighter has had a great career that seems to be back on a roll as he has rattled off back to back stoppages of Alexandre Ferriera (UFC 122) and Jason Brilz (UFC 129) is that of Vladimir Matyushenko.

Vladimir Matyshenko has truly lived the unsung hero life of a 'Janitor'

At the age of 40 most men are not spending hours in a gym training like a fighter but rather taking it easy and taking it easy. Some of these forty-somethings are at your local sports bar talking about their high school heroics or reliving that final drive that never really happened.

At 40, Matyushenko is winding a career that many fans didn't even know had 30+ fights against the likes of Andrei Arlovski, Tito Ortiz, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Pedro Rizzo.

Don't click to wikipedia or sherdog but let me tell you this, what if told you that Matyushenko was 8-2 in his past ten would you really believe me?.

I will try and convey a well-earned tribute to one of the sports unsung legends who has competed as an undersized heavyweight and done very well as a light heavyweight.

Matyushenko was born on January 4th, 1971 in Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic. Matyuskenko spent most of his childhood before moving in and around the California state. He would excell in sports and especially in freestyle wrestling. His highest achievement prior to moving to the United States was becoming a Soviet National Wrestling Champion.

It was while competing in wrestling that he obtained his nickname of 'The Janitor' from famed wrestler David Schultz. After beating several members of the U.S. national team (Including Olympian Kevin Jackson) he was nicknamed 'The Janitor' after looking very shabby while cleaning the mats.

Matyushenko would get his first taste of wrestling accomplishments when he became a two-time junior national wrestling champion at Lassen College located in Susanville, California. He won at the 177-184 pound weight class in 1996 aqnd in 1997 he won at heavyweight.

A thirst for competition made him enter the world of mixed martial arts (MMA) and let's just say he didn't want to start off easy.Matyushenko would debut under the International Fighting Championship (IFC) banner and would take on veteran Vernon 'The Tiger' White in his professional debut.

While under the IFC banner 'The Janitor' posted a perfect 4-0 including three wins in one night at IFC 5: 'Battle at the Bayou'. He posted stoppages in each bout including two wins over Anthony Macais.

In fact, Matyushenko would win his first seven fights with 6 of 7 being won by a stoppage. Matyushenko would add more to his fighting portfolio in his sixth and seventh fights.

'The Janitor' would make his debut in Japan when he would knockout Kenji Kawaguchi at Vale Tude Japan 1998. It also marked his first of many fights outside the U.S. market. Following his win in Japan he would test his mettle against journeymen Travis Fulton.

He would submit the less then talented Fulton with ease when he won by a neck crank at IFC: 'Fighters Revenge'.

They say the true test of a fighter is his response to a loss and this was the time for Matyushenko. At 7-0 and looking like the next big thing in MMA an old rival in Vernon White would finally get the best of 'The Janitor'. At IFC: 'Montreal Cage Combat' Matyushenko would lose a tightly contested fight by split decision.

Taking the loss in stride he would win back to back contests until it was time to raise his profile at an impressive record of 9-1.

It was time for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

At UFC 32, Matyushenko would take on Japanese star Yuki Kondo in East Rutherfod, NJ. In what was not his best performance he would earn a decision victory. With a 10-1 record which included wins over Vernon White, Anthony Macais (twice), Travis Fulton, John Marsha nd now Yuki Kondo he was getting his 'shot'.

UFC 33 would be headlined by a light heavyweight clash between Vladimir Matyushenko and the most polarizing character and UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz

Ortiz, was a wrestling stud who had steamrolled everyone (except Frank Shamrock) and he would defend his belt once again at UFC 33. As many fans and pundits would reflect upon UFC 33 it could very well be the worst night of fights in UFC history.

Three title fights all ended in five long rounds of decisions with all champions retaining their straps. It would be another tire iron thrown in the early days of ZUFFA's running of the newly bought promotion.

Matyushenko could not get by the younger and stronger Ortiz and was wrestled easily for 5 rounds with no answer. It was time to re-invent and heading back to Japan was in order for Matyushenko who would start one of the most unknown rivalries in the sport.

Matyshenko returned to Japan and would take on his first Brazilian-born opponent in Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, little brother of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. The two competed under the UFO banner and fought at UFO: Legend in April of 2002.

The two slugged and traded leather for three long rounds but at the end of the night Matyshenko restored why he was one of the best on the planet at the time. Matysuhenko would win a unanimous decision and return back to the United States, a little heavier.

At UFC 40, Matyushenko would take on the under skilled and over built Travis Wiuff at heavyweight. Continuing his success in 2002 'The Janitor' would win the bout by submission (punches). He would return at UFC 41 where he would take on the Buffalo Bill(s) of the UFC, Pedro Rizzo.

Pedro Rizzo at one time was undefeated in non-title fights and in three UFC heavyweight title fights he failed to win the gold. Rizzo was coming off a loss at UFC 39 to literal giant and teammate of UFC Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell, Gan McGee. Matyushenko kept the downfall of the heavyweight striker as he won a unanimous decision over 'The Rock'.

UFC 44 would be 'The Janitor's' last shift in the promotion for six years and 10 fights.

Matyushenko took on a fellow Belorussian whom many considered the best striker not named Mirko Cro Cop. Andrei Arlovski was a freak of nature, built like an Adonis and fast as hell. He was counter-culture to the typical heavyweight with a large body fat percentage and slow. Arlovski was fast, explosive and loaded with dynamite fists and at a whloe different level for the smaller 'Janitor'.

Arlovski was far too much for the fellow countryman and he laid out Matyushenko at the 2:14 mark of round one. As Arlovski found success from early setbacks it was time to get back on track for Matyushenko.

Matyushenko would take some time off from fighting until May of 2005 when he competed at Jungle Fights 4. Matyushenko would bounce back from his UFC 44 loss to Arlovski and win a Carlos Barreto by TKO.

He would take another year long break when he returned in June of 2006 and won again by armbarring Anthony Ruiz at Extreme Wars 3: 'Bay Area Brawl'.

In 2006, a new fight promotion was started when two people from completely different lives met. Real Estate developer Kurt Otto and Wizard magazine founder Gareb Shamus created the International Fight League (IFL). Matyushenko would fight under the Tokyo Sabres team which was led by body builder Ken Yasuda

Matyushenko was one of the most recognizable faces in the IFL which also featured Ben Rothwell, Roy Nelson and Chris Horodecki. Matyushenko fought six times and went a very impressive 6-0 under the IFL banner.

While competing in the IFL, Matyushenko won the IFL light heavyweight championship and defended it once. He held wins over Dwayne Compton, Justin Levens, Aaron Stark, Tim Boetsch, Alex Shoenauer and Jamal Patterson. It was a great ride in the now-defunct promotion but with the demise of the IFL it was time to keep the momentum up.

It was time for round two with 'Lil Nog'

Clothing brand Affliction started to promote it's own fights and of course this created a bitterness with the UFC. It was a promotion that was focused on big events compared to long term planning. It over paid every fighter and in the end it lost millions of dollars when it should ahve made millions.

At Affliction: 'Day of Reckoning' Matyushenko would face Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in a rematch from their first encounter in 2002. The series would get tied up at one when 'Lil Nog' sweeped the floor with Matyushenko and would win a TKO outcome over 'The Janitor'.

Matyshenko would rebound with a win over Jason Lambert at Call of Arms 1. It would be enough hard work and excitement to get his ticket back to the big show.

Matyushenko would return to the UFC at UFC 103 winning a decision victory over Igor Pokrajac. 'The Janitor' would continue cleaning up the light heavyweight division by earning a split decision over Elliot Marshall at UFC Live: 'Vera vs. Jones'.

With two straight wins it was time to put up or shut up as he would face Jon Jones who was coming off a win over Brandon Vera. It was not even close at 'Bones' used his elbow to stop Matyushenko in under two minutes of the opening round.

It all appeared that Matysuhenko was good but not good enough for the younger dogs of the 205 pound pen. The fact hasn't deterred Matyushenko who continued onward.

At UFC 122, it was time for Matyushenko to put a beating on somebody and that 'somebody' was Alexandre Ferriera. Matyushenko beat up Ferriera badly as he won by TKO at 2:20 of round one to get back on track. The fight was push Matyushenko onto the largest attended fight card in North America.

At UFC 129 two legends were going into two very different roads following it. 'The Natural' Randy Couture, a much heralded star was taking on Lyoto Machida while Matyushenko faced Jason Brilz.

Matyushenko would embarrass Brilz when 'The Janitor' knocked him out at the 20 second mark of round one to earn back to back stoppage wins. Machida would crane kick Couture out cold and out of the UFC as Couture retired after.

It was a great way to leave as his he ousted by the better man.

Matyushenko may never get the face time Couture got but he should be honored just as much. He has slugged against good talent his whole career and never backed down. He faced the 'phenoms' of Ortiz, Arlovski and now Jon Jones. He won titles and had classic slugfest's that we still talk about today.

Much like his fights with Rogerio Nogueira and his career, they are not talked about enough. I know he hasn't won a world title in PRIDE or the UFC but has added some of the longest lines of hard work without the most glamorous moves.

Matyushenko is one the unsung legends of modern MMA but will he leave 'Sin City' with a cleaning of 'The Mauler'?

Remember: will provide LIVE blow-by-blow, round-by-round coverage of UFC 141, beginning with the PPV telecast at 9 p.m. ET on Dec. 30. In addition, we will deliver up-to-the-minute quick results of all the under card action much earlier on fight night, including the Spike TV Prelims at 8 p.m. ET.

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