MMA is a sport built around small margins of success in small amounts of time.
Andrei Arlovski’s momentary lapse in defense at UFC 195 caused the Cinderella run to come to a screeching halt.
In less than a minute — 54 seconds, to be exact — Arlovski was being saved by the referee as Stipe Miocic looked to take advantage after landing a crushing right hand to the former UFC champion. Arlovski circled directly into Miocic’s power hand, a dangerous move for anyone, let alone someone in the heavyweight division.
The fight featured a number of storylines heading into the contest. Arlovski was making a miraculous comeback under the tutelage of Greg Jackson. Miocic was looking to ascend to title contention. Their styles were also contrasting. Arlovski’s arsenal featured thudding power punches and Miocic mixed combination strikes with athleticism. Yet it was Miocic’s power, not Arlovski’s, that gave us the highlight-reel finish.
For Arlovski, it appears that hopes of recapturing UFC gold will have to be put on indefinite hold. He’s clearly still good enough to be among the elite of the division. The heavyweight ranks are full of guys who are in their twilight years of fighting. But, whereas many of those can count on their durability to bail them out at times, Arlovski’s chin and ability to take a punch have always come under fire. It seems many fans and pundits forget that outside of a handful of guys, anyone can be knocked out when they get hit by fighters who weigh 230 pounds and up on the night of the fight.
It’s not as if Arlovski was on the receiving end of a vicious beatdown over the course of the fight either. He circled to his left and was swiftly met by the power punch of a heavyweight fighter. That shot would knock out many in the division. Although that much is clear, what’s not clear is where the former UFC heavyweight champ will go from here.
A few names have been floated as possible future opponents. Specifically, the potential opponents are Junior dos Santos and Mark Hunt. Both match-ups are enticing for fans and the UFC brass. All three men have a good following among fans, and it’s easily a fight that could headline a Fox Sports 1 card or serve as a feature bout on a UFC on Fox event.
The potential fight between Arlovski and dos Santos is particularly interesting given where both men are at in their careers. Arlovski is certainly not done after one quick loss, but it appears there may not be enough time for him to stage another climb to title contention. JDS, meanwhile, has enjoyed his status as a consensus top-five heavyweight for the past few years and was widely considered the 1b to 1a Cain Velasquez. Dos Santos has fallen off the map entirely, though, thanks to some vicious damage sustained at the hands of his two fights with Velasquez and in his victory over Miocic. He looked extremely tentative and trigger-shy in his fight with Alistair Overeem. There was a moment, just prior to JDS being floored by Overeem, where dos Santos had his opponent pressed against the fence. The only offense dos Santos could muster the entire fight was a nice combination featuring a hook to the body. Yet, where the old dos Santos would’ve unleashed a flurry of soul-stealing power strikes, this version simply backed away.
A fight between Arlovski and dos Santos pairs two exciting strikers who have a litany of highlight-reel finishes to feature for pre-fight hype. Arlovski appeals to fans of yesteryear, given his previous UFC run, and to virtually every fight fan that appreciates an underdog or comeback story. Meanwhile, dos Santos appeals to pretty much anyone who has warm blood flowing through their body. He’s one of the few guys seemingly universally liked by everyone and provides must-see TV when competing.
Arlovski and Hunt also combine to form an intriguing bout given the pair’s history in MMA. Both guys are from a time forgotten and have staged incredible comebacks in similar ways. They are knockout artists who won’t be looking to turn the fight into a grappling match, therefore making the fight an easy sell to the casual fans tuning in. Hunt still has some durability in his chin despite the recent TKO losses and we all know the kind of leather he would be slinging towards Arlovski in a potential showdown. Their past accolades and history in the sport make them needle-movers for hardcore fans as well. However, it would be odd to see the UFC choose to pair up two top contenders with one coming off a loss and the other coming off a win.
On paper, it would seem as though dos Santos may be the better match-up for Arlovski. Yes, Arlovski could probably take an easy victory by utilizing his sambo grappling skills, but one can easily guess the likelihood of that happening. Dos Santos looked well off his game when facing Overeem in his last outing. This is something that should be attributed to the game plan employed by Overeem’s camp. That’s the same camp, by the way, that houses Arlovski. Pretty convenient, don’t you think?