Despite being on a two-fight skid, Andrei Arlovski has looked better than he did a few years ago. Part of it is fighting the likes of Tai Tuivasa and Shamil Abdurakhimov, where he used to fight thunderous hitters like Francis Ngannou and Stipe Miocic (who put him away very quickly), but he’s also taken a shot better in his last few fights than he took the punches of someone like Josh Barnett back in 2016. Arlovski arguably defeated Tuivasa at UFC 225, and after a tepid Moscow showing against Abdurakhimov, he faces a top heavyweight prospect in Walt Harris. Harris looks to take a step towards the elite by dispatching Arlovski as decisively as the elite have been able to.
Arlovski’s chin seems to have grown back, but he hasn’t looked very good for a long time. Since the beginning of 2016, his best performance was his body-punching against Junior Albini, but Albini is plodding even for heavyweight. He was able to arguably defeat Tai Tuivasa as a fairly sizable underdog, but Tuivasa doesn’t seem to do much well (his previous two performances were just athletically overwhelming borderline-UFC-level talent). Harris is a different animal from both, fairly quick for the weight class (especially in handspeed), a real puncher, and not just bad technically. Harris can swarm an overmatched or a hurt opponent, but most of the time, he just moves forward and looks to land a fairly punishing left hand. Harris can string together brutal combinations as he did to finish Chase Sherman (landing a clothesline to set up a knee from the double collar tie, which knocked Sherman’s head upwards into a range-finding slap and a vicious left hand), and he can fire the left hand on the counter as he did to put away Daniel Spitz.
If there’s a place where Arlovski can beat Harris, it’s probably in a longer and more tactically-oriented bout; Harris proved against Mark Godbeer that he can be a bit unthinking at times, getting disqualified for an illicit head kick, where Arlovski put together fairly smart fights against Albini and Stefan Struve. That said, at a big athletic deficit and not at a big technical advantage (both Arlovski and Harris are basically one-handed power punchers at their best), and with durability issues that haven’t reared their head in a while but are almost certainly still there to be exploited by a gigantic puncher, it’s hard to expect intelligence alone to do the job.
Prediction: Harris via first-round knockout. This writer caps it: -200 Harris.
Long-time MMA fan. Catch my (incomplete) betting history at betmma.tips/sriramsays.