Thursday, February 23, 2012

Putting Down The Pitbull

When I look back at the fighters that helped hook me into MMA, I’d absolutely put Andrei Arlovski on that list. The 6’4” Belarusian heavyweight had one of the most impressive highlight reels from 2003 – 2005 in the UFC. The uppercut KO of Matyushenko, the striking clinic against Cabbage, the achilles lock to capture the heavyweight title against Tim Sylvia, and the one-punch KO of Paul Buentello were just a few of the reasons I became an Arlovski fan. The speed, technique, and power he displayed at heavyweight made him look practically unbeatable going into his second fight with Tim Sylvia. However, that’s when things began to unravel.

Arlovski lost his belt to Sylvia by a first round knockout. Arlovski’s chin came into question after the fight because the initial punch that rocked him was a seemingly weak uppercut. He had also rocked Sylvia with a punch early in the fight, but failed to capitalize on it. He then lost an immediate rematch with Sylvia in a lackluster five round decision. However, “The Pitbull” gained new life after his second loss to Sylvia. After a KO of Marcio Cruz, a lackluster decision win over Fabricio Werdum, and a TKO win over Jake O’Brien, Arlovski left the UFC for a bigger payday and new opportunities.

He would up in the Affliction promotion, who had also signed the likes of Josh Barnett and Fedor Emelianenko. During this time, he also began training with famed boxing coach Freddie Roach. His hands never looked better. He battered Ben Rothwell en route to a third round KO victory on the first Affliction card. Although the stoppage was a bit controversial, he did hurt Roy Nelson worse than anyone else in recent memory, and earned a KO stoppage victory over him on an Elite XC card. Arlovski was beginning to look like his old self again, perhaps even better. He had compiled an impressive five fight winning streak, and had gotten the call from Affliction to fight Fedor Emelianenko.

Fedor was still a top-three pound-for-pound fighter and number one ranked heavyweight in the world at the time he fought Arlovski. For the first few minutes of the bout, it didn’t look that way. Arlovski was seemingly outclassing “The Last Emperor” on the feet, and looked like he might be the one to finally put away the stoic Russian. However, Fedor reminded us that if you leave an opening against him, he will find and exploit it. With one right hook during an Arlovski flying knee attempt, Fedor walked away victorious while “The Pitbull” lay unconscious on the canvas. Things wouldn’t get much better from there.

After the Fedor loss and the demise of Affliction, Arlovski was signed by Strikeforce. His first fight was against powerful up-and-comer Brett Rogers. Talk of Andrei’s glass chin reignited and spread like wildfire after Rogers pummeled him and put him away in 22 seconds. In his next fight against Antonio Silva, many thought Arlovski would use his superior speed and striking technique to stop “Bigfoot.” However, he looked tentative and gun-shy throughout the fight, and lost a decision as a result. I almost didn’t want to watch his next fight against Sergei Kharitonov, as I had a strange feeling I knew what would happen. Sure enough, Kharitonov knocked out Arlovski in brutal fashion in less than three minutes.

Since then, I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch anymore of his fights. Sure, he got signed to the new ProElite and has won his first two fights by KO/TKO, but have you looked at those fights? His first win was against Ray Lopez. Who? Exactly. His second win was against Travis Fulton, “The Ironman” who has had over 300 fights. From what I’ve heard, the fight could’ve put you to sleep except for the last five seconds where Arlovski threw and landed the head kick that ended fight. Gone are the days when the Belarusian fighter would tear through his opponents like a pitbull, and I doubt he will fight, let alone defeat, a top heavyweight again. It is undeniable that Arlovski helped attract and suck in fans like myself to this wonderful sport, but the recent times have proved that there is a “changing of the guard” taking place. Arlovski will have a place in the hearts of many MMA fans, but his time as a dominant heavyweight is over.

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