I can’t say I expected to be writing about Andrei Arlovski while previewing a UFC fight in 2014, but here we are. The former UFC heavyweight champion has returned, he’s won six of his last seven fights, and he’s on the main card of a pay per view show against Brendan Schaub.
I expect that most readers of this blog don’t need a recap of Arlovski’s strengths and weaknesses as a fighter, but I’ll provide them anyway. Arlovski is a well-rounded fighter in all disciplines whose tendency is to stand and strike with his opponents. He has a diverse striking game with punches, kicks, and knees, and has very good knockout power. Arlovski’s takedown defense is historically excellent at 86 percent and he has pretty good skill in submissions as well.
Arlovski’s one glaring weakness is his chin, and as much as he or Greg Jackson might try to deny that, it is in fact a weakness. Any UFC fighter who had seven career losses by knockout in 28 fights, including three KO losses in four fights from 2009-2011, would be given the label of having a “glass chin.”
Still, Arlovski hasn’t been knocked out in the three years since he was finished by Sergei Kharitonov in Strikeforce, and that includes a striking match against Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (although Johnson nearly finished Arlovski at the end of the first round in that one). After watching Arlovski’s recent fights on tape, I don’t think his skills have diminished very much. He was out-struck by Johnson, but that isn’t saying much; Johnson is arguably one of the best strikers in the sport.
Arlovski can still strike, he can still defend takedowns, and he’s still a threat to win by knockout. That makes him a very dangerous opponent for Brendan Schaub, who might have an even worse reputation for having a bad chin than Arlovski does. It’s one thing to be knocked out by fighters like Kharitonov and Fedor Emelianenko; it’s another to be knocked out by Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, but that’s exactly what happened to Schaub.
Like Arlovski, Schaub is a pretty skilled fighter once you get past his relative inability to take a punch. He’s up on his collective opponents in every major Fight Metric statistic: significant strikes, knockdowns, takedowns, guard passes, and submission attempts. Schaub isn’t exceptionally good at any one thing, but he’s one of the better strikers in the heavyweight division and is pretty good at landing takedowns as well. His ground game is rough around the edges but he at least is good enough to avoid making bad mistakes.
Against Arlovski, I anticipate that Schaub will either choose to stand and strike, or fail to take Arlovski down and be forced to strike anyway. If that turns out to be the case, then this seems like the very definition of a coin flip fight. Both fighters are good strikers with knockout power. Both fighters have a history of being knocked out.
Instead of grabbing a coin and flipping it to decide who I’m going to pick, I can’t help but notice that Arlovski opened as the betting favorite at -140, but is currently the underdog at +140, with Schaub now the favorite at -160. It seems like the betting public is fully behind Schaub, and that makes me naturally inclined to pick Arlovski. It’s more of a tiebreaker than anything, but I like being different when I can.
Pick: Andrei Arlovski by KO