The sight of Andrei Arlovski being cracked on the chin and collapsing to the canvas is no longer a shocking one, nor reason to stop what you’re doing. In fourteen career losses, he has been knocked out ten times, a nod to both his supposed fragility and also his gung-ho, fan-friendly approach to the sport of mixed martial arts.
Arlovski, you see, doesn’t believe in holding back. He doesn’t believe in going to a decision, either. What you have instead with Arlovski is a warrior both aided and hamstrung by a kill-or-be-killed mentality that has seen him win some fights he wasn’t supposed to win and lose some he wasn’t supposed to lose. Never, though, will anyone accuse the Belarusian of being dull. Win or lose, he’s usually very, very watchable. In truth, most guys prone to being knocked out are.
Here’s the concern with Arlovski: four defeats in a row. He’s been going through a rough time of it of late – stopped by Francis Ngannou and Stipe Miocic in a round, Alistair Overeem in the second and Josh Barnett in the third – and hasn’t won a fight for nearly two years. The purple patch he enjoyed in 2014 and 2015, when beating the likes of Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva, Travis Browne and Frank Mir, now seems a distant memory, Arlovski’s encore in a career steeped in drama, highs and lows.
Now the fun is over and it starts to get dangerous. Arlovski, currently 38, fights 31-year-old Pole Marcin Tybura this Saturday (June 17) at UFC Fight Night 111 and knows another loss will mean the game is up. It has to. Few fighters in history have been able to rebound from five straight losses. Another defeat will also provide the final bit of evidence to say his time has now passed and the division is ripe for the thickset Eastern Europeans who roam around its periphery, just waiting to make their move. Tybura may not be the one. He may not be the guy to make a charge and rip the UFC heavyweight title from the tight grip of Stipe Miocic. But, rest assured, he’s a danger to Andrei Arlovski on Saturday night; a danger just as any heavyweight with two fists is at this stage.
That said, wouldn’t it be so typical of Andrei Arlovski to confound the doubters, the worriers and the scaremongerers and pull something dramatic out the bag? As everyone is making a start on his obituary, Arlovski, spitting defiance through sharpened fangs, unleashes a barrage on Tybura and breathes fresh life into a body in desperate need of resuscitation. In doing so, he lives to fight another day.
That’s certainly the romantic version of events. Wouldn’t be all that unlike Arlovski, either. After all, he’s been here and done it before. Remember the four consecutive defeats he suffered between January 2009 and February 2011? Fedor Emelianenko knocked him out in a round; Brett Rogers and Sergei Kharitonov did the same; he also lost a decision to ‘Bigfoot’ Silva. But what happened next? What happened next was this: Arlovski took a step down in competition, did the rounds on ProElite, ONE FC and World Series of Fighting shows and gradually put the fractured pieces of a puzzle back together. He rediscovered his confidence. He rediscovered his ability to knock men out. By June 2014, he was back in the UFC, an organisation from which he’d been absent since 2008, and his rehabilitation was complete.
Not only that, such was Arlovski’s confidence at the time, he constructed a four-fight win-streak and seemed to have stumbled upon a newfound maturity and composure that nicely complemented his inherent intensity and aggression. For a while, it worked for him. He seemed back to his best. But then he ran into Stipe Miocic, the reigning UFC heavyweight champion, and has struggled to stay on his feet, much less win a fight, ever since.
Last time out, in January, Francis Ngannou cut through the former UFC heavyweight champion with frightening ease. He did it the way many had previously gone about the job: he punched Arlovski on the jaw.
The problem, they say, is that a fighter’s durability diminishes each and every time they are knocked out; meaning the more they get knocked out, the more susceptible they are to the same fate happening again and again. In the case of Arlovski, 25-14 (1 NC), it has happened a lot now. In fact, he has been on the wrong side of some of the quickest and worst in MMA history.
The hope is that this long-held theory doesn’t apply to a fighter who has given so much to the sport. But if it does, and if Marcin Tybura becomes the latest heavyweight to add the 38-year-old’s scalp to his resume, let’s pray that cooler, sensible heads prevail and Arlovski, a man who has given us so many thrills and spills over the years, is allowed to put down ‘The Pit Bull’ once and for all.