This weekend, Andrei Arlovski steps back into the cage at World Series of Fighting 5 in Atlantic City against Mike Kyle. It will mark the 31st professional bout of the former UFC Heavyweight Champion’s fourteen year career.
Unfortunately, today he would seem in the twilight of that great career. Recent years have seen “The Pit Bull” lose more often than win, including his most recent: a lackluster bout with Anthony Johnson in March. In the last four years, he has earned four victories to five defeats and one no-contest.
In November of last year, he showed some of his old form in stopping Devin Cole in World Series of Fighting 1. That was a good night for Arlovski and mostly an enjoyable show. But even there was something shaky about Arlovski – not quite the “Pit Bull” of old. There was thought that he could re-claim some past glory, but now, with the loss to Johnson on everyone’s mind, it would seem the jury is out on this former champion, again.
What do I mean by the “Pit Bull” of old? Here are a pair of my favorite moments:
1) The victory over Tim Sylvia to earn the UFC Interim Heavyweight title (UFC 51, February 5, 2005). This was a historic fight for several reasons. First, the UFC title had gone in limbo after Frank Mir had a serious motorcycle accident. After a lukewarm start to his MMA career, Arlovski had been on a tear through the UFC Heavyweight division, running through former contenders Ian Freeman (who had defeated Mir earlier in his career) and Vladmir Matyushenko, plus beating down Wesley “Cabbage” Correira. But he entered the ring “even money” in many fans’ eyes against former champion Tim Sylvia to crown an Interim Heavyweight Champion.
The night included Evan Tanner’s victory over David Tanner to win the UFC Middleweight title, Tito Ortiz’s long anticipated scrap with Vitor Belfort, and much, much more. But, the biggest moment of UFC 51? For me, that was no contest. Arlovski hit a big right hand to floor Sylvia just moments into the bout, then snatched Sylvia’s foot and cranked an Achilles lock to force the tap in 0:47 of round one. That submission victory (the last of Arlovski’s career) would earn him the victory and the belt, it made the UFC heavyweight division’s rankings as clear as day — with him on top.
2) The knockout victory over Roy Nelson (Elite XC: Heat, October 4, 2008). Arlovski had experienced some ups and downs by now, including losing to Sylvia (twice!). Elite XC promised to bring some of the best fighters in the world to challenge the UFC, and on nights like this, they delivered. Nelson looked impressive early here, nicely reversing a rare Arlovski takedown and immediately passing his guard to threaten for arm locks in the first round, then landing a good left hook to begin the second. But Arlovski kept the pressure in standup exchanges, eventually shaking the big man with a left knee in the clinch and a series of uppercuts. Arlovski would then knock Nelson out cold with a straight right at 03:14 of the second. It would be the only knockout of Nelson’s career, raise Arlovski’s record to 15-5, and put him back in serious contention. Unfortunately, three straight losses followed.
But can he turn it back around, and add to the hit list this weekend? We’ll see. Mike Kyle has a few highlights as well – including a T/KO victory over James Irvin at that same UFC 51 show. It’s a new day in a new era. We’ll see who has how much left.