Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight prospects Jake Matthews and Bojan Velickovic will square off this Saturday (Nov. 18, 2017) at UFC Fight Night 121 inside Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney, Australia.
Matthews is one of Australia’s best young prospects. The 23-year-old fighter recently ran into some difficulties in a pair of consecutive losses, but now he’ll try his hand at Welterweight. Matthews was an extremely large Lightweight, so the move makes sense, but he will certainly face a size disadvantage here. That won’t normally be the case, but Velickovic is one of the biggest men at 170 pounds and will certainly be a stiff test for the young Aussie.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Johnny Case (UFC Fight Night 85), Akbarh Arreola (UFC 193), Vagner Rocha (UFC Fight Night 55)
Key Losses: Kevin Lee (TUF 23 Finale), James Vick (UFC Fight Night 65), Andrew Holbrook (UFC Fight Night 101)
Keys to Victory: Matthews is a grappler first and foremost — most of his nine finishes came on the mat regardless of whether they were submissions or TKOs — but does have a developing kickboxing game. His record at Lightweight is a bit deceiving as well, as two of his losses come to some of the division’s top contenders, and the other was a split-decision.
This bout is a perfect test of both Matthews’ offense and size at 170 lbs. Bojan Velickovic is tough, big, and reasonably well-rounded, but he’s really not particularly great in any one area. Because of his size and solid wrestling, Velickovic has proven tough for even veteran wrestlers to ground out. With that in mind, Matthews’ ability to hide his shots into his kickboxing will be pivotal. The Aussie has a brutal top game, one that could really help him pull ahead if he can secure top position just once.
In addition, Velickovic isn’t exactly known as a huge knockout puncher. If Matthews cannot land the takedown against a bigger foe, “The Celtic Kid” will have a chance to show off that improving kickboxing.
Key Wins: Nico Musoke (UFC Fight Night 109), Alessio Di Chirico (UFC Fight Night 86)
Key Losses: Darren Till (UFC Fight Night 115), Sultan Aliev (UFC on FOX 22)
Keys to Victory: I spent a fair amount of time in the above section describing Velickovic, whose UFC career has been one of the stranger ones in recent memory. Most of Velickovic’s fights tend to be low-volume and competitive, as he’s too big for foes to impose their will but doesn’t dominate himself either.
His last bout is the only real exception, as Darren Till put a beating on the iron-chinned Serbian. Even his previous fight — a big knockout win for Velickovic — featured long periods of slow exchanges prior to the sudden finish.
Oddly enough, that could really work against Matthews, who is still a bit uncomfortable on his feet. If Velockovic can defend the shot, he has a real chance at drawing his inexperienced foe into precisely the low volume battles in which he thrives.
To give himself a better shot at winning that decision, I’d like to see Velickovic pressure. Neither man is a proven power puncher, but so the combination of aggression and a bit more volume should prove enough for “Serbian Steel” to win a kickboxing match.
Bottom Line: It’s a battle of up-and-comers.
Matthews is one of Australia’s top young fighters, and he’s looking to realize his potential. He has a lot of athletic gifts and is still in the process of learning how to translate them into victory in the cage. At some point, things will fully click for “The Celtic Kid,” and he’ll likely evolve into a top contender.
The move to Welterweight could help with that, allowing the Aussie to focus more on training and less on weight management. It could also leave him unable to utilize his physical gifts on a stronger opponent. Either way, this bout is another step in Matthews development and perfect fight to see if Welterweight is the right move.
For Velickovic, the stakes are higher. He’s not known as the most exciting fighter, and a loss here would make it three defeats out of four. UFC isn’t cutting fighters lately, but that’s still a position that “Serbian Steel” would much rather avoid. Plus, Matthews is a well-regarded prospect, so a victory over him would help prove that Velickovic is here to stay.
At UFC Fight Night 121, Jake Matthews and Bojan Velickovic will face off. Which man will have his hand raised?