Photo via UFC.com
It ain't easy getting older and trying to remain relevant in a young man's game.
Just ask Vladimir Matyushenko and Jason Brilz, two battle-tested warriors who will hook 'em up on the main card of tonight's (April 30, 2011) UFC 129: "St. Pierre vs. Shields" event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Both men have been in the game for more than a decade and competed against many of the best the sport has to offer. In the case of Matyushenko, he's a former International Fight League champion who at one time also competed for the UFC light heavyweight title.
That was all the way back in 2001, which resulted in a decision loss to "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" Tito Ortiz. Much has changed since then, a fact never more evident than in "The Janitor's" latest foray into the upper echelon of the 205-pound division.
Vladdy took on Jon Jones in Aug. 2010 and was absolutely manhandled, losing in less than two minutes to the phenom who would eventually win the division championship.
As for Brilz, he dominated the regional scene for most of his career, losing just once in 19 fights before getting the call from the world's largest fight promotion. He scratched and clawed his way to a 3-1 record before an injury to top dog Forrest Griffin opened a vacancy in a big match up against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
This was "The Hitman's" time to shine. Alas, he came up short when it mattered most.
That's not to say he didn't give a valiant effort. To the contrary, he put on the performance of the night, hanging around for all three rounds and more than holding his own against the gritty and grizzled Brazilian veteran.
However, whether anyone agrees with the decision or not, Brilz lost what was undoubtedly the biggest fight of his life.
And that's the recurring theme for these two aging work horses.
They're both extremely talented and highly proficient in what they do: Matyushenko is an accomplished freestyle wrestler with solid boxing, while Brilz won a state championship during his time at Nebraska.
While that's all well and good, neither man has ever truly gotten over the hump. And at the ripe ages of 40 (Matyushenko) and 35 (Brilz), respectively, time is rapidly running out to make something happen.
That's what tonight represents when they step out in front of 55,000 insane-o Canadian fans. Of the 12 fights on the card, only two do not involve a native of the Great White North. This is one of them.
The fans in the stands, as well as the fans at home, may not have much of a reason to feel vested in this fight. In the end, that's what is at stake inside the hallowed halls of the Rogers Centre ... relevancy.
A loss could mean the end of either fighters hopes of ever contesting for a major championship in MMA.
Should be enough to get up for, eh?