Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight up-and-comers, Li Jingliang and Jake Matthews, kept the UFC 221 pay-per-view (PPV) action rolling in the second bout of the main card from inside Perth Arena in Perth, Australia. Jingliang was eager to record his fifth consecutive win at the expense of the local fan-favorite, but Matthews had other designs, earning an impressive — and lopsided — unanimous decision win after three rounds of back-and-forth brawling.
There wasn’t much going on early in the opening round as both fighters looked to feel out each other and gauge timing/distance. Matthews scored first with a nice overhand right, bit it did not deter Jingliang, who stalked his opponent, looking for an opening to land something meaningful. During a brief exchange, the two fighters clashed heads and shortly thereafter Matthews dropped him with a hard combination. He pounced and was able to quickly secure full mount. Jingliang didn’t really defend well, opting instead to roll to his belly where Matthews angled for a rear-naked choke. He was unable to get his forearm under Jingliang’s chin, though, but he did punish him with countless strikes from behind for almost two full minutes until the round came to a close.
Jingliang appeared to shake off the first round, drilling Matthews with a clean uppercut to start the second stanza that split open his eye. A crazy scramble ensued, where Matthews had a deep, deep guillotine choke that Jingliang was somehow able to escape ... thanks in large part to gauging Matthews’ eyeballs. The pair returned to their feet and began to trade heavy leather. Neither man dropped, though, despite each landing numerous clean power shots. Jingliang was swinging for the fences, most likely realizing he was down on the judges scorecards. Matthews, meanwhile, appeared to slow down considerably — perhaps the result of the submission attempts and breakneck pace. Jingliang was in his face the whole round, winging wild punches and baiting Matthews into a firefight. It was a close, action-packed round.
Between round Jingliang was warned that he would be deducted a point if he pulled any more dirty shenanigans inside the Octagon. Matthews, meanwhile, started the third and final frame with a takedown, but it didn’t last long as Jingliang was able to quickly get back to his feet and break free. The pair continued to uncork looping, heavy shots, but none of them found their marks in the first half of the bout. Then Matthews finally found a home for a huge right hand that dropped Jingliang; however, he was somehow unfazed and was eventually able to get on top of Matthews. The two battled along the fence for a bit then returned to the center of the cage with one minute remaining in the bout. Matthews tagged him with some nice shots — and a flying knee — but Jingliang remained unaffected. Matthews scored a takedown, then landed a left hook, in the waning seconds of the bout that more than likely earned him the unanimous decision victory over a very talented, and game, Jingliang.
Matthews is seemingly reborn at 170 pounds, winning back-to-back fights for the first time in almost two years. And he did it against perhaps the toughest opponent he has faced inside the Octagon to date. It was an impressive performance to say the least.
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