“What’s old is new again.”
We’ve all heard that phrase many a time in our lives. No matter how far out of style something may seem, there’s always a chance it will come back into fashion. Nostalgia still sells, whether it’s your favorite band from the 1980s going on tour yet again, those bell-bottom jeans you just can’t bring yourself to part with or, in the case of the UFC, fighters who were widely considered on the decline getting yet another chance at glory. In the process, they’re also revitalizing what was previously considered one of the UFC’s weakest divisions.
While UFC 191 will be headlined by flyweight Demetrious Johnson, possibly the UFC’s most dominant champion, the co-main event has the potential to steal the show with two fighters looking to prove themselves — but not in the way you think. Andrei Arlovski battles Frank Mir in a bout widely considered to determine the next No. 1 contender in the heavyweight division.
Let that sink in for a second. Arlovski, whose mixed martial arts career began in 1999 and was considered on the decline after a four-fight losing streak between 2009 and 2011, is on the cusp of his seventh title fight. Mir’s made his debut in 2001, but he was considered on the downside of his career after suffering a four-fight skid of his own from 2012 to 2014. Now he’s on the brink of his sixth title fight. Both men have simply looked reborn.
Arlovski just put on one of his finest performances to date with a first-round knockout of Travis Browne at UFC 187 in May. Mir has torn through his recent competition, notching first-round knockouts of Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva and Todd Duffee in back-to-back fights. The man that emerges victorious from what promises to be a brutal affair at UFC 191 should be considered next in line for a heavyweight title shot, but Arlovski and Mir are not just fighting for contendership. These old warhorses are leading a resurgence of the UFC’s heavyweight division.
Going into former champion Cain Velasquez’s title fight against Fabricio Werdum in June, the pool of potential contenders at heavyweight was thin, to say the least. Arlovski was still on the list, but Mir’s resurgence was in its infancy. Fighters like Stipe Miocic and Ben Rothwell were considered not quite there yet, but now those two will square off in October in what should also go a long way toward determining a title challenger. Junior dos Santos and Alistair Overeem have been nursing injuries and have not been seen for quite some time. The aforementioned Bigfoot and Mark Hunt have fallen back to the pack. If Velasquez had defeated Werdum in June, his quest to be considered the greatest heavyweight of all time could have arguably been complete. But Werdum’s victory breathed new life into the heavyweight division, and now Mir and Arlovski are keeping the momentum going while both are past the midway point of their thirties.
The pair’s last four victories combined have come quickly in the first round, which portends similar results for their clash at UFC 191. Yet, their impact in the resurgence of UFC’s heavyweight division is anything but brief.