The Severe Spotlight: Jake Matthews

SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE – JUNE 12: Andre Fialho of Portugal exchanges strikes with Jake Matthews of Australia during their Welterweight Fight at Singapore Indoor Stadium on June 12, 2022 in Singapore. (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images)

UFC 275 was a card for the ages. Fight cards of late have been lacking a through-card narrative, a build to the apex in terms of story lines, skill, and notoriety. UFC 275 was the opposite, the card had all of it. There was an undeniable subtext to the fight card of decision making, both good and bad.

The main event saw Glover Texeira drop his title to Jiří Procházka. Whilst it was a fight for the ages for fans and the literacy of the 205lb history books, there were numerous occasions in the fight that both men made poor choices. The more egregious choices being made by Glover Texeira. On numerous occasions he had his opponent in dire positions, with big opportunities to finish the fight and opted for poor submission choices or poor positional transitions. The cost of that was severe, he ended up being submitted for the first time in his storied career via a no-hooks rear naked choke.

Valentina Shevchenko took a split decision win over Taila Santos. Decision making was also a very prevalent feature in this fight, namely from the champion. However, that decision making does not detract from Taila Santos being the most formidable foe that Valentina has welcomed to her arena at 115lb. There are questions as to why Shevchenko chose to grapple when she was finding herself in bad spots when doing so, and not strike when she was damaging Santos when she did so. An unintentional clash of heads exacerbated the story of damage, but it felt at the time as though the course of the fight had not been changed dramatically from the event.

Weili Zhang put on a near-perfect performance, stopping Joanna Jędrzejczyk with a spinning backfist in the last 30 seconds of their fight. An ironic and beautiful ending given that Jędrzejczyk had attempted, and come close to ending the first encounter with the very same technique. Joanna retired in the cage post-fight, and we as the MMA community can do nothing but celebrate her. A true pioneer of European MMA, and MMA for women. If this is the last, we salute you Joanna, and thank you for all the years of memories.

Jake Matthews put the brakes on the Andre Fialho hype train, but we will move onto that shortly. Jack Della Maddalena produced a good performance against Ramazan Emeev, stopping him in the first round after finding himself in and fighting out of a d’arce.

The prelims saw Joshua Culibao take a win over Seung Woo Choi, Maheshate made a good debut against Steve Garcia. Brendan Allen beat Jacon Malkoun in more difficult fashion that was probably necessary. Kyung Ho Kang looked great in his win over Batgerel Danaa. Silvana Gómez Juárez stamped a right hand on Na Liang and followed up with a left hand to close the show. The curtain jerker saw Joselyne Edwards pick up a win over Ramona Pascual.

The spotlight on this article however goes on Australia’s troubled son, Jake Matthews. Matthews entered the UFC at 19 years old brimming with promise and raw potential. His career has been a meandering one. Holding good wins over names like Vagner Rocha, Jinliang Li, Emil Meek and Diego Sanchez however in fights against names that should be in this list, he has been dispatched with what seemed like relative ease.

It was not the case on Saturday night. He came into the fight with Portugal’s Andre Fialho having lost to uber-prospect Sean Brady at UFC 259. On the walkout there was an air of change, not just in his physical appearance, but with the confidence that we he sprightly moved to the cage with.

Round one saw Matthews come out focussed and collected, he opted to fight off the back foot, landing low kicks, and looking good defensively in the early goings. Trying to force Fialho to throw, Matthews began to switch stances. Fialho took the bait, and Matthews wasted no time landing a counter right hook over the top of the Fialho advancement chasing him down with a low kick. The potential of Matthews to make good reads, and to fight smartly has been littered throughout his career, and he showed lots of calm, calculated choices in this round. He punished Fialho for staying in range too long, punished him for advancing and punished him when he retreated. A furious exchange of shots in the last 30 seconds seemed to boost the confidence of Matthews, as he took some shots that had shown recent fighters the taste of the canvas and landed harder shots back.

The second round saw Matthews come out on the front foot, pushing Fialho back, continuing the land the right hand from a variety of angles. Variety was a pillar of the performance on Saturday, whether that be selection of headshot, bodyshot, kick or stance Matthews mixed things up nicely.

The finish quite frankly came from Matthews just finding the better shots in the exchanges. He landed a crisp counter right hand to begin the sequence, stalking Fialho over the cage and a huge counter left hook to send the Fialho wobbling against the fence. Right hook to the body, left hook to the head, overhand right to a left feint, to a clean right hand put his man down.

Variety, clinical decision making, confidence and power was the story of Jake Matthews on Saturday, long may it continue.

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