Two incredibly powerful combatants will do battle tomorrow night (March 23, 2013) as former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski takes on the ever-growing Anthony Johnson in the main event of World Series of Fighting 2 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Arlovski had a brief run of poor showings, but he looks to have put it all behind him after going unbeaten in his last five bouts, including a dominant first round knockout of Devin Cole in the main event of the first World Series of Fighting event last November. He's looking to let the good times roll against Johnson.
Johnson was a welterweight just 17 months ago, but has moved up to middleweight, then light heavyweight and now heavyweight. He crushed D.J. Linderman at 205 pounds in his World Series of Fighting debut and then asked for a fight against Arlovski, getting his wish. He'll be competing at a size and strength disadvantage for the first time in his career tomorrow night.
Record: 19-9 1 NC overall, 1-0 in WSOF
How he got here: With a strong history in Russian combat sambo, Arlovski jumped into MMA feet first, although he bit off a bit more than he could chew, losing three of his first seven fights against a pair of more seasoned veterans.
That all changed when "Pitbull" put it all together and started smashing his opposition, winning six straight fights in UFC and capturing the heavyweight title and defending it twice in the process. Arlovski would lose a rematch to Tim Sylvia and the trilogy fight and he moved on for a bigger contract outside the promotion where he strung together another nice win streak before battling Fedor Emelianenko at the second Affliction event.
Arlovski got off to a good start, but was finished by Emelianenko after an ill-advised flying knee attempt which kickstarted a brutal four fight stretch that saw him get knocked out three times against top competition.
Since then, the Belarusian has switched over to Greg Jackson's gym and seen positive results, going unbeaten in five straight bouts including his WSOF debut last November. He'll be looking to continue that momentum against the undersized but still very dangerous Johnson tomorrow night.
How he gets it done: Arlovski is going to be bigger, stronger and likely better conditioned than Johnson when they finally square off. He just needs to keep his emotions in check and not get too reckless. Johnson's biggest advantage is the fact that he can probably take a punch better than the former UFC heavyweight champion so Arlovski needs to keep those hands up at all times and wait for openings.
Johnson can be reckless at times, wading in with huge power so if Arlovski can employ a proper defense, there are going to be openings for him to not only score with his powerful strikes, but to really hurt "Rumble" with some heavy shots.
Time is on Arlovski's side as Johnson has never been known as a cardio machine and with a bigger frame and more muscle to carry around, he's going to have trouble keeping up with him for three full five-minute rounds. If Rumble begins to fade, Arlovski can really take over with a superior pace.
Record: 14-4 overall, 1-0 in WSOF
How he got here: Anthony Johnson took the fast track to the UFC. With his freakish size and power for a welterweight, he made his promotional debut in just his fourth professional fight. Prior to that, he had been a national champion wrestling on the junior college level.
He didn't get off to a great start, going 2-2 in his first four fights, losing via submission to the significantly smaller Rich Clementi and getting his eye poked badly by Kevin Burns which somehow resulted in a TKO loss. In between those fights, he showed his potential by knocking Ultimate Fighter season six finalist Tommy Speer silly in less than a minute with a vicious punch.
"Rumble" went on a solid three fight win streak, avenging the eye poke to Burns and knocking out both Luigi Fioravanti and Yoshiyuki Yoshida in the first round. This earned him a big time divisional match-up against top contender Josh Koscheck. Johnson struggled to land big strikes against Koscheck, resorting to wild punches and his lack of a serious submission game resulted in a second round rear naked choke defeat.
After being shelved for 17 months, he returned against Dan Hardy and smashed "The Outlaw" with strikes before riding out a decision with his significantly superior wrestling. Johnson dominated Charlie Brenneman in his next bout stuffing his takedowns and finishing him off with a brutal head kick, but he would get himself in trouble.
Johnson moved up to middleweight to take on Vitor Belfort but missed weight badly before losing the bout and receiving his walking papers. He began moving up in weight, first a 195 pound catchweight and then a pair of light heavyweight bouts before calling out Arlovski and getting his wish.
How he gets it done: Johnson is almost entirely about the knockout. He's got some serious power and is very dangerous with not only his punches but also his kicks, something Arlovski should be very careful about considering the fact that almost all of his losses have come via some form of knockout.
Despite being a former welterweight, Johnson is still a very big fighter and came in at 230 pounds for this bout. He's giving up a few pounds to the former heavyweight champ as well as height, reach and strength so he's going to have to be cautious if he gets into clinch battles.
Johnson should be on the lookout for opportunities to get inside and overwhelm Arlovski's striking defense. His best chance in this bout is in the first round where Arlovski has been caught several times in the past. They key will be to land that one shot before going after "Pitbull" with heavy blows in an attempt to finish this fight because it's going to be hard for him to win a decision.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest factor for this fight has to be the fact that it's Johnson's first fight at heavyweight. He built up a reputation for his ability to cut all the way down to welterweight from a ridiculous physical size and he had absolutely no pressure this time around because he didn't have to worry about that weight cut. Johnson only has to be concerned about the fight, but he's also competing for the first time against someone who's going to be bigger and stronger than him. He is a fighter who's used his size and power advantages throughout his career so he's in a unique situation this time around.
Bottom Line: Both Johnson and Arlovski are heavy hitters with a very high finish percentage. Look for both men to try to land that big shot and put their opponent out. Johnson's power will almost certainly translate at heavyweight considering what he's done at 205 pounds already and Arlovski is a proven power puncher as well. This fight not only has the curiosity factor going, but it also has potential to be very entertaining.
Who will come out on top at World Series of Fighting II? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!