It wasn’t long ago that MMA veteran Vladimir Matyushenko was a 39-year-old UFC light heavyweight on a three-fight winning streak and possibly making a move toward the UFC title picture. Sure, he had some mileage on him, being a longtime amateur wrestler and a 13-year MMA pro, but he still was ahead of most fighters.

He then ran into a monsoon known as Jon Jones, effectively snapping that three-fight UFC winning streak. From there, the Belarusian would get back two of those wins before losing two quick fights in his latest outings. Matyushenko is now 42 years old, has recently been cut by the UFC and looked as if he would be finished in the world of mixed martial arts.

Luckily for “The Janitor,” he got a call from Bellator. The tournament-based organization was salivating over the possibility of strengthening its light heavyweight division by adding the extremely experienced Matyushenko and possibly including him in one of its future tournaments.

With this recent signing with Bellator, the question on many fans minds is whether Matyushenko can have one last successful run in Bellator before hanging up the gloves.

He is definitely one of the oldest mixed martial artists around, but experience can be advantageous, especially in a company where some of the fighters are very young in their careers.

Bellator’s top names currently include Emanuel Newton, Attila Vegh, Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, Mikhail Zayats and Renato “Babalu” Sobral. Although Lawal and Sobral also possess a background in wrestling, Matyushenko’s wrestling skills would immediately give him a good base to start making a run at the title. Of course, he would need to tighten up his striking defense against heavy hitters like Newton, Lawal and Vegh, but solid clinch work would help counteract that somewhat.

Matyushenko’s only losses have come against top-10 opposition in his career (other than an early loss to Vernon White). His losses have come to Tito Ortiz and Andrei Arlovski in their prime, as well as current top-10 UFC fighters Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Jon Jones, Alexander Gustafsson and Ryan Bader. Beyond those upper-tier guys, Matyushenko has been astounding, finishing 16 of his 26 wins by knockout or submission. With all that, it’s not hard to see that he could be successful in Bellator.

Matyushenko will not be included in the upcoming Summer Series tournament, but who’s to say we won’t see another light heavyweight tourney in season nine? Bellator is finally starting to feature the division more heavily, especially since the entrance of Lawal to the company. With the addition of Matyushenko, Bellator will seize the opportunity to build another season’s bracket around him.

Matyushenko needs to gear up because this may be his last chance at gold.

Photo: Vladimir Matyushenko (Stephen Albanese/Tailstar.com)

About The Author

Riley Kontek
Staff Writer

Riley Kontek is a Chicago-land native that has been an addict of mixed martial arts since the first Chuck Liddell-Tito Ortiz encounter. He has been writing on MMA for the last year and is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report MMA. In addition to that, he used to host a weekly radio show on MMA. Though he has no formal training in mixed martial arts, Riley is a master in the art of hockey fighting.