Note: This is an opinion piece I wrote for MMA Latest News
Mixed martial arts fans might have thought they were caught in some type of time vortex as they watched Andrei Arlovski pick apart Travie Browne during the UFC 187 main card.
The Pit Bull from Belarus delivered an outstanding performance against Browne in what could be an early candidate for “Fight of the Year.” Browne almost made a “Comeback of the Year” performance as he was able to land a right that sent Arlovski to the mat, only for the Pit Bull to compose himself and finish the fight. The thing that makes Arlovski’s win more impressive was that he had torn his calf the day before the fight and UFC officials weren’t sure if he would compete.
Some newer fans would call Arlovski’s win an upset. Browne was seen as a contender for the UFC heavyweight title after three-consecutive KO wins over Gabriel Gonzaga, Alistair Overeem and Josh Barnett. After dropping a decision to current interim heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum in a title eliminator bout, Browne scored a first-round TKO win over Brendan Schaub. But for longtime MMA fans, Arlovski looked like the Pit Bull of old. Terms like “resurrection” and “rebirth” get thrown around a lot in combat sports, especially when there’s a fighter who is making a comeback, but Arlovski is someone who has regained some of the – for lack of better term “mojo” – that made him one of the best competitors of his day.
Arlovski (24-10 1NC MMA, 13-4 UFC) is a two-time heavyweight champion and was one-time considered the baddest man in the octagon. Some folks could argue that when Arlovski was in his prime, the UFC’s heavyweight division wasn’t as stacked or as deep as it is today. While the UFC had some good fighters at heavyweight, many considered Pride Fighting Championships’ roster to be better.
He finished his first UFC was finished in 2008 with three consecutive wins – including a victory over a young Werdum – and decided to venture into other territories, including a fight against former Pride heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko that began a four-fight losing streak. During this time critics began to count out the former UFC champion, whose trainers approached him to consider retirement in 2011 following his knockout loss to Sergei Kharitonov in the first-round of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix. Arlovski exclusively started training with Greg Jackson, a relationship that began in 2009, and slowly began to rebuild himself. He won bouts in small promotions and World Series of Fighting. In April 2014, WSOF granted Arlovski his release to allow him to return to the UFC.
The Pit Bull picked up a decision over Schaub in a lackluster affair that still had critics questioning Arlovski’s value. He made waves in 2014 after knocking out Antonio Silva in their rematch – the first time Arlovski has ever earned a “Performance of the Night” bonus and avenged an earlier career loss.
After last night, Joe Rogan and others were talking about Arlovski being in the title picture. I could see him getting a big-name opponent like Junior dos Santos or Stipe Miocic but I don’t think he’ll fighting for a title anytime soon. Perhaps if Werdum defeats current heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez to unify the titles as a way to allow the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt to avenge an earlier loss in his career.
I also like the idea of Arlovski fighting elite strikers such as Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic or Mark Hunt. Down the road I could see him face Frank Mir.
Arlovski may never fight for the title, but right now he’s an asset to the UFC and it will be interesting to see how far he can go.