Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight prospects Jake Matthews and Bojan Velickovic threw down last night (Nov. 18, 2017) at UFC Fight Night 121 inside the Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney, Australia.
Matthews showed a lot of talent and promise at 155 lbs., but he struggled to put it all together. Without the struggle of a severe weight cut holding him back, the young Aussie was hoping to put on a show and confirm himself as a major fighter to watch.
On the other hand, Velikcovic has not found consistent success inside the Octagon either. He hasn’t been getting dominated, but most of Velickovic’s fights -- win or loss — have been slow and closely contested. Against a former Lightweight, Velickovic aimed for a more definitive result.
Matthews opened up with an immediate takedown that was a bit sloppy, but he was still able to run his foe into the fence. For nearly two minutes, he worked for the takedown, while Velickovic smacked at his face with short shots and landed some decent elbows.
“The Celtic Kid” eventually landed the takedown, but Velickovic sprung right back to his feet. The fight moved back to the fence for another minute, but Matthews finally secured a takedown with about 90 seconds. Velickovic went for a heel hook that allowed him to scramble back to his feet, but he was unable to fully escape Matthews’ grasp.
It was an uneventful round on the whole.
Velickovic opened the second round with some heavy shots that forced a bad shot. “Serbian Steel” latched onto his opponent’s neck, forcing him into the mount, where he nearly finished the guillotine. Then, Velickovic transitioned to his opponent’s back.
It took the better part of two minutes for Matthews to escape, but things didn’t get much better for him. The Aussie was tired, and his movements were slow, which allowed Velickovic to pick his shots and land decently. Matthews actually began to land well when he calmed down in the final 30 seconds, but it was far too little to steal back a strong round from the Serb.
Matthews seemed to recover well enough heading into the final frame, and he scored some hard right hands and a power takedown early. For the first time, Matthews actually established top position and landed some elbows. Unfortunately for him, Velickovic scrambled into a takedown of his own, taking the back a second time.
This time, Matthews was able to shake his foe off reasonably quickly. He landed from half guard before advancing into the back mount. Both men were tired, which produced some scrambles that were equal parts sloppy and smart, but ultimately Matthews ended the bout on top.
It was ugly as hell, but Matthews’ hand was raised.
Matthews won this fight despite himself. He fought like a UFC newcomer, rushing takedowns and looking incredibly uncomfortable in the first round. I don’t know if it was the pressure of fighting at a new weight class, in his home country, or simply the layoff, but Matthews did not look himself.
Forcing the takedown in such ugly fashion exhausted Matthews, setting up Velickovic for his big second round.
Once Matthews calmed down a bit, he fought far more effectively. The third round showed that he does know how to blend strikes and takedowns, and as a result, it was a far more decisive round for him. Matthews has plenty of skill, but it’s clear from this bout he needs a lot more fight time before he steps up to face the division’s top athletes.
On the other hand, Velickovic fought reasonably well. He spent most of the round defending takedowns, which makes it hard to win decisions. To his credit, Velickovic did find opportunities to land strong offense, like the second round guillotine or some of his elbows along the fence.
That said, Velickovic lost the decision because his offense was never really consistent. Outside of his top control in the second, there was never more than 10 seconds of Velickovic dominance at a time. There was no long period where he picked Matthews apart or beat him up from top position. He landed some shots, sure, but his volume was low enough that Matthews cracked him back and stayed in the fight.
Last night, Jake Matthews won a split-decision victory in his Welterweight debut. What’s next for the Australian prospect?
For complete UFC Fight Night 121 “Werdum vs. Tybura” results and play-by-play, click HERE!