The former champion and long-time veteran Andrei Arlovski returns to the octagon on a four-fight win streak to take on his next challenge in Marcos Rogerio de Lima. Arlovski, who began his UFC career in 2000 and won the heavyweight title in 2005, has sustained a position in the ranks for almost his whole tenure. Picking off younger and promising talent has been a staple in the most recent years of the Russian legend, and the few who have gotten past him have truly become substantial threats in the sport.
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His newest opponent, Lima has had a rather long run in the UFC himself, making his debut at the Ultimate Fighter Brazil Finale in 2014. Since then, Lima has consistently found mixed results but never sustained a true losing streak and always bounced back. He will look to continue this trend after losing to Blagoy Ivanov in May by returning to form with a huge win over a former champion.
The vet, Arlovski, will be a +188 underdog, meaning $100 on the former champ returns a prize of $188 should he win.
Arlovski, a grizzled veteran, depends largely on his cunning and experience nowadays. Back when he was the champion, he demonstrated athleticism, power, and ferocity which has simply died out to some extent with age. That’s not to say he isn’t just as or more effective now. He mostly uses a boxing-based approach; he will burst in with his combinations and high-tail it out of range and reset away from the fence.
He has a very good feint low to the right in order to set up a high left hook. As he has become a bit more rigid in his movement over the years, he does tend to potentially take some shots down the center when he clashes, but he is calm in collecting when he needs to cover up and defend as he recovers. If stunned, it’s not unusual to see Arlovski shell up on the cage and do his best to deflect and return cautiously rather than get into a firefight.
Although he is a striker first, a background in Sambo and even silver medals in world championships keeps wrestling always in the back pocket. Defensively on his back he has a tight closed guard and underhooks, which minimize damage but offensively he is very slick. He likes to attack takedowns from the over-under clinch with outside trips and sweeps that land him past or in half guard. He will sacrifice the ability to work ground and pound for control by putting himself in semi-awkward positions on top but this allows him to burn out time while scoring points on the clock.
Lima is much more ‘in your face’ than Arlovski. He wants to wade forward, checking kicks and swinging back hard. He tends to loop his punches quite a bit but higher-than-average hand speed helps make up for it and the power is evident. He is going to want to make the octagon as small as possible for Arlovski, as he is not only great when he can T off on the cage but he also has slick and heavy counters if he can force Arlovski to fire back rather than constantly exit. He is going to have to cut Arlovski off rather than chase him.
Grappling Wise, Lima is also a powerhouse, he will take his opponents down and stuff them to the fence to stop them from getting up, and he will sit in the guard and blast away. He isn’t necessarily too preoccupied with passing because when he can get that position against the cage he can use that negation of space to protect himself from potential submissions. However, on the bottom, he does tend to get submitted from bottom side control or mount via choke. He has a forearm choke, an arm triangle, and a von flue choke on his losing record.
This is a very interesting matchup because Arlovski should have all the skill to win, but it just takes one wrong move and Lima has won by KO. Arlovski’s usual tactics or engaging on a straight line is important if he can utilize his straight punches and land from a beat away from where Lima’s hooks can land. IF he can do this and successfully reset, I believe he can get the better of the striking exchanges.
In terms of grappling for either man, whoever ends up on top is at a big advantage because neither man is particularly dangerous off of their backs. On a technical level both men have what it takes to get there, but I think that they are both so skilled in upper-body grappling in particular that this will incite scrambles where the speed and power of Lima will make the difference. If Arlovski gets on top, it could likely be a counter opportunity or maybe a knockdown but I don’t think it would be wise for him to get into a wrestling match with Lima.
Overall I think that range will be a big factor, and Arlovski should end up winning with slicker boxing and footwork.
Prediction: Andrei Arlovski to win (+188 odds at MyBookie)
Braeden Arbour is an aspiring journalist out of Ontario, Canada. He is a recent graduate of Trent University, with a black belt in Karate and a blue belt in Judo. He has also been an avid fan of MMA for the last decade.