The fight started pretty competitively, with Roman bringing the pressure and Matsumoto needing to respond to it. The Japanese fighter landed some good body shots, but seemed to be out worked, out landed and in same ways out though by Roman, who used a good solid jab and clever footwork to cut the distance against the taller man. The success of Roman continued through the fight, with a lot of close rounds, but a lot of rounds where he simply did a bit more than Matsumoto, who looked to land single shots, namely the jab up top and the left hand to the body. Roman however had more variation to his work, the jab, the right hand over the top, and the body shots.
Although Roman seemed to be doing the better work, there was a lot of competitive action and Matsumoto did more than hold his own in a number of rounds, including round 3, which was one of his best rounds. The problem for him is that Roman really didn't seem to feel his power, and kept coming forward, even the big shots of Matsumoto seemed to be taken with ease from Roman.
In the middle rounds we saw some great trading sequences, as Matsumoto started to hold his ground more, and even when he was backed up he was letting his hands go a bit more often, as he did from the ropes in round 7. Though by being backed up so frequently he was making life a little bit too easy for the judges, who were always going to favour the aggression of the champion over the challenger's shots on the retreat.
In round 8 Matsumoto had another of his stronger rounds, landing some big body shots, though Roman continued to take them well. The champion did seem to feel them more than once, but only needed a second or two before returning fire and putting Matsumoto under pressure again, likely stealing the round with a late assault.
Matsumoto even tried to change his tactics late on, pressing Roman backwards, and whilst he had success at times he couldn't keep it up for long, with Roman turning the pressure around and forcing Matsumoto backwards. It was keeping the fight competitive on a round by round basis, but with Roman always just doing a touch more when he came forward, and seemingly always looking like the man who knew when, and how, to step up the pace. This certainly seemed to be the case in rounds 9, 10 and 11, with Matsumoto looking like he was having good rounds until Roman turned the pressure up and fought back.
The final round was one where Roman really stepped back on the gas from the off. It was as if he was thinking “if all the close rounds go to the challenger, I really might need to make a statement here”. He went out hunting a KO and forced a real fight, with both men taking some huge shots ina thrilling back and forth round, despite being back and forth it was clear that Roman was getting a lot more to land than Matsumoto, who had to reset more often, and backed off during key exchanges.
In there end there was no doubting the winner, and that was shown on the scores cards which read 119-109, twice and 118-108. The fight could have been scored closer, and Matsumoto certainly didn't disgrace himself, but he was the clear loser. Sadly though the score cards make the bout look like a near whitewash, which doesn't reflect the competitiveness of the bout, despite being pretty cards.
(Image courtesy of Daily.co.jp)